Japan Picks 16 Airports, Ports for Defense Use

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Fukuoka Airport in April 2022

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—The Japanese government on Monday picked 16 airports and ports in seven prefectures where the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard will be granted peacetime use, as part of efforts to boost the country’s defenses.

The 16 facilities are five airports in four prefectures, such as Kitakyushu Airport in Fukuoka and Naha Airport in Okinawa, and 11 ports in five prefectures, including Kushiro Port in Hokkaido, Takamatsu Port in Kagawa and Ishigaki Port in Okinawa.

The government expects the designated facilities to be used for the SDF and the coast guard to respond to ballistic missile launches and to operate surveillance activities in nearby waters.

In the event of a natural disaster, the facilities will be used to evacuate residents of remote islands and to dispatch troops for relief efforts.

The airports and ports will undergo renovation work, including runway extensions and underwater drilling, so that large transport aircraft and vessels will be able to use them.

The government signed an agreement with the operators of the 16 facilities, including local governments, to ensure that the SDF and the coast guard use the facilities flexibly and promptly if there is an emergency and a rational reason to use them.

To dispel local residents’ concerns, the government agreed that the SDF and the coast guard will use the airports and ports several times a year, at most.

The designation is based on a 2022 update to the government’s National Security Strategy that said public infrastructure will be used to protect citizens and ensure troops are deployed smoothly during exercises and emergencies.

The central government failed to gain understanding on the airport and port use by the SDF and the coast guard from Fukui, Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures, which say the municipalities hosting such facilities were not given adequate explanations.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said, “Allowing the SDF and the coast guard to use airports and ports where they are needed will enhance deterrence and response capabilities.” He said, “We will continue to make careful explanations.”