Japan Eyes Improving 16 Airports, Seaports to Boost Defense; Would Enable Access by Self-Defense Forces and Coast Guard

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Naha Airport in Naha in April 2022

Japan eyes improving 16 airports, seaports to strengthen defense The Yomiuri Shimbun The government plans to improve 16 airports and seaports nationwide, under the public infrastructure program scheduled for launch in the new fiscal year to bolster defense capabilities, it has been learned.

It envisions extending the runways and improving the piers so that the Self-Defense Forces and Japan Coast Guard can also use the airports and seaports, according to sources close to the government and the ruling parties.

The government aims to make the facilities accessible to the large aircraft and ships of the SDF and the JCG, the sources said, to be ready to protect the public in times of emergency or to deal with disasters, The government’s National Security Strategy, revised in December 2022, included plans to develop and enhance public infrastructure and reinforce Japan’s overall defense architecture as part of efforts to achieve a “fundamental reinforcement” of Japan’s defense capabilities.

In the new fiscal year, 16 airports and seaports are planned to be equipped as “specific-use airports and seaports” that are prioritized for improvement.

This group includes five airports, among them Kitakyushu Airport in Fukuoka Prefecture; Nagasaki Airport in Nagasaki Prefecture; and Naha Airport in Okinawa Prefecture. The 11 seaports include Muroran Port in Hokkaido; Kochi Port in Kochi Prefecture; and Hakata Port in Fukuoka Prefecture.

The facilities are expected to be used by SDF transport ships, destroyers, transport aircraft and fighter jets, as well as the JCG’s large patrol vessels. They will also be used for peacetime training exercises.

The government is working to allocate a total of about ¥35 billion to the project. A Cabinet meeting is expected to be held soon to decide on the policy.

Given the risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the government is particularly eager to promote the improvement of airports and seaports in the southwestern region of Japan, the sources said.

Naha Airport managed by the central government and Ishigaki Port managed by Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture, are included in the priority group. However, other facilities managed by the Okinawa prefectural government are not included. This is believed to have happened because the central government did not receive cooperation from the prefecture on this issue.

Coordination with the prefecture is likely to be an issue in the future, observers said.