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Government mulls drones purchase to boost surveillance in East Asia

Kyodo

The government will consider purchasing unmanned surveillance aircraft, similar to the U.S. military’s Global Hawk, to enhance its high-altitude surveillance capabilities and better respond to the changing security environment in East Asia, according to a draft outline of the Defense Ministry’s interim report.

In addition to the procurement of the drone, the draft obtained Wednesday also says Japan will begin discussions on whether to have the capability to attack an enemy base amid ballistic missile threats, and to boost the maritime functions of the Self-Defense Forces.

Japan has been concerned about China’s growing assertiveness around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islets are administered by Japan but claimed by China. Beijing continues to send surveillance aircraft and ships in apparent protest of Tokyo’s purchase last year of some of the islets from a private Japanese owner — a move that effectively nationalized the chain.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are also one of the main security concerns.

The government is planning to compile new defense guidelines and have them approved by the Cabinet by the end of the year. The interim report, expected to be released Friday, will be used as a basis for the guidelines that will define Tokyo’s longer-term defense policy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to revise the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. A government panel focusing on collective self-defense is expected to compile a report on whether to lift the self-imposed ban this fall.