A soldier from Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force helps to prepare surface-to-ship missile launchers at Camp Naha in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. Photo: Reuters/Toru Yamanaka

Japan’s government is considering deploying a surface-to-ship (SSM) missile unit to the main island in Okinawa’s island chain in response to Chinese naval movements near the strategic Miyako Strait, according to a report in the Asahi Shimbun.

Government sources told Asahi on February 26 that the deployment would serve as a check to Chinese Navy ships passing through the waterway between Miyakojima island and the main Okinawa island.

“The government plans to formulate the details of the new unit, including its scale, in the Defense Ministry and the secretariat for the National Security Council. It will incorporate them in the new National Defense Program Guidelines to be worked out by the end of this year and the Medium Term Defense Program,” Asahi reported.

According to the sources, Tokyo is mulling deploying a battery of its most advanced Type 12 SSM to the Okinawa site. The weapon’s range is about 200 kilometers.

The current National Defense Program Guidelines, worked out in 2013, stipulate that Japan will assign SSM units to defend remote islands. Japan has already decided to deploy an SSM unit to Miyakojima island, located south of the Miyako Strait, Asahi said.

The Type 12 SSM is a truck-mounted anti-ship missile developed by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. It is an upgraded version of Japan’s Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile.

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