Ceremony held to mark deployment of anti-ship missile unit in Okinawa

About 90 people, including defense officials, attended a ceremony on Saturday to mark the first local deployment of a surface-to-ship missile unit on the main island of the southern prefecture of Okinawa.

In March, Japan's Defense Ministry deployed a Ground Self-Defense unit to the GSDF's Katsuren camp in the central Okinawa city of Uruma to operate the Type-12 surface-to-ship missiles.

In a speech, State Minister of Defense Oniki Makoto said the unit is expected to play a central role in Japan's defense of the southwestern region. He said it is tasked with blocking a possible invasion of the remote islands from the sea and eliminating invading forces.

The deployment of the missile unit is the first on Okinawa's main island. The contingent will also take on the role of supervising other missile units deployed on Miyakojima and Ishigakijima islands in Okinawa as well as Amami-oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.

More than 80 protesters rallied outside the camp to oppose the deployment. Some were holding placards with such messages as "No to Missiles."

A 72-year-old man said the area is now more likely to be a target in an enemy attack.

Defense officials are considering plans to extend the range of the Type-12 missiles so that they can be used as part of Japan's counterstrike capabilities aimed at striking enemy missile bases and other targets.

Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny has expressed his opposition to the deployment in his prefecture of any armaments with counterstrike capabilities.