Japan will deploy the F-35B stealth fighter aircraft for the first time from 2024, a decision strongly influenced by the perceived threat posed by China's military to Japanese territory in the East China Sea.
Local media reports said that the airfield is some 1,030km northeast of the disputed Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands) that are claimed by China but controlled by Japan, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).
F-35B jets would be based at the Air Self-Defence Force's Nyutabaru Air Base in southern Miyazaki Prefecture, sources told the Yomiuri newspaper.
Julian Ryall and Kyodo, in an article in SCMP, said that the Chinese coastguard has in recent years increased its activity near the Diaoyus, raising alarm in Tokyo, which brought the islands under state control in 2012.
The first squadron for the F-35B - each of which costs USD 117 million - will comprise 18 fighters, with Japan scheduled to buy a total of 42 jets, reported SCMP.
Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University who specialises in defence issues, said the F35-B fighters would operate with Izumo-class vessels and later classes developed by Japan to provide better defensive and force-projection capabilities to the southwest.
"They will be close to the amphibious brigade that is stationed not far from the naval base at Sasebo, and the ministry wants to relocate the Osprey transport aircraft to Saga Prefecture in the future as well," he said. "It makes complete sense to have your naval platforms, assault units, transport aircraft and fighter jets all in the same area."
The United States and Japanese governments have been discussing conducting large-scale joint drills to increase their capability to protect the Diaoyus, with President Joe Biden's administration confirming on January 28 that the disputed island chain was subject to Article 5 of the Japan-US security treaty.
Article 5 states that the US will defend territories under Japan's administration from armed attack.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Japanese Defence Ministry confirmed that the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its accompanying support warships had traversed waters between the main island of southern Okinawa Prefecture and Miyako Island, also part of the prefecture.
It was the first time the aircraft carrier had been sighted in the area in a year, although the warships at no time entered into Japanese territorial waters, reported SCMP.
( With inputs from ANI )
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