Washington and Tokyo have set up a new team called the Japan-U.S. Bilateral Intelligence Analysis Cell to analyze intelligence on China’s military activities in the East China Sea. The United States and Japan rely on military assets to gather information that is analyzed at Yokota Air Force Base on the outskirts of Japan. Military assets used for intelligence gathering include the US military’s MQ-9 Reaper drones, according to a report by Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun.
MQ-9 Reaper UAVs operate from Kanoya Air Force Base in southwestern Kagoshima Prefecture. They were deployed in November. The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the US deployment of MQ-9s reflects Washington’s desire to increase surveillance in the vicinity of the Nansei Islands. The Nansei Islands include the Senkaku Islands and are a source of tension between Japan and China.
new cell goals
The primary purpose of the US-Japan Bilateral Intelligence Analysis Cell is to ensure that the US and Japan have accurate information on China’s activities in the East China Sea. According to Japan’s defense ministry, the team will consist of 30 of his Japanese and American personnel. Lt. Gen. Ricky Rapp, commander of U.S. forces in Japan, said the new team would ensure “strategic readiness by developing a better understanding of mutual threats,” according to a Mainichi Shimbun report. Lieutenant General Yasuhiko Suzuki, deputy chief of staff at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the new team would help deter provocative actions in the region.
Geopolitical rivalry in the East China Sea
The East China Sea is the site of ongoing geopolitical disputes due to competing territorial claims and the presence of valuable natural resources such as oil and gas reserves. One of the main sources of conflict in the East China Sea is disputed sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, a group of small uninhabited islands claimed by China and Japan. The islands are strategically located near major shipping lanes and both countries have a long history of territorial claims to them.
In 2010, China began patrolling the waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku Islands. In 2012, China established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, requiring all aircraft entering the area to report their flight plans to Chinese authorities. The move was widely criticized by the United States and Japan, raising tensions in the region. In 2014, China began drilling for oil and gas in the waters around the disputed islands, leading to protests from Japan and the United States. Deployed in the waters surrounding the islands. The US and Japan hope the new cell will provide enough information so that they are not surprised if China takes more aggressive actions.