Japan South China Sea
Chinese vessels patrol the East China Sea during a joint navy drillReuters file photo

Japan is bolstering its military presence in the disputed territories of the East China Sea in order to check the growing influence of China. As part of its latest expansion, Tokyo will install anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile batteries on more than 200 islands stretching about 1,400kms between mainland Japan and Taiwan.

Goaded by its ally, the US, Japan is also set to deploy thousands of personnel in order to increase its troop presence to 10,000 in the next five years. This is the first time Japan has significantly increased its presence in the disputed territories in the East China Sea, largely owing to the pressure from Washington.

The archipelago – which Japan calls Senkaku and China Diaoyu – came to the forefront of a territorial row after Tokyo announced it was purchasing islands from private owners in 2012. There have been several spats and close maritime encounters – both in water and air – between the two Asian powerhouses since then.

According to Reuters, which cited multiple Japanese military and government sources, the latest mobilisation is in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy to boost the country's presence in the region. Once the batteries are set up on the islands, Chinese vessels sailing towards the strategically-important Western Pacific region have to pass by the batteries, pushing China a step back.

Although the Chinese ships would be free to navigate freely in the international waters, they would still fall under the radar of the Japanese batteries. Parts of the uninhabited islands have also been claimed by Taiwan and South Korea. In November 2013, China had unilaterally declared an air-defence zone in the region angering Japan, the US, South Korea, and Australia.