Okinawa governor decries US ambassador visit to isles near Taiwan

Okinawa governor decries US ambassador visit to isles near Taiwan

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Okinawa governor decries US ambassador visit to isles near Taiwan

The governor of Okinawa on Saturday criticized the U.S. ambassador to Japan’s visit to two of its remote islands in the country’s south near Taiwan the previous day, saying the move raises tensions in the region.

“To visit an area near Taiwan increases the tension. We are monitoring (the situation) closely so that it doesn’t cause further friction,” Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters, apparently referring to China’s objection to the United States deepening ties with Taiwan.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel visited Yonaguni Island, Japan’s westernmost island about 100 kilometres east of Taiwan, and Ishigaki Island, about 130 km east of Yonaguni, on Friday.

Tamaki also expressed concern about the fact that Emanuel took a flight to the islands on a U.S. Marine Corps transport plane through local commercial airports.

“If one commercial airport is used, will it not lead to others being potentially utilized (by U.S. forces in Japan) as well?” the governor said.

Yonaguni and Ishigaki are part of the south-western Nansei island chain, which is strategically important due to its proximity to Taiwan, a potential geopolitical flashpoint.

With China viewing Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary, Japan has been strengthening its defence capabilities in the area and its security cooperation with the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.