The Defense Ministry has drafted plans for the Self-Defense Forces to shoot down foreign drones that intrude into Japan’s airspace if warnings to leave are ignored, a source close to the government revealed Sunday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued his approval when Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera briefed him on the plan Oct. 11, the source said.
The ministry drafted the plan in response to a Chinese military drone that intruded into Japan’s air defense identification zone Sept. 9, approaching the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China also claims the chain as Diaoyu.
The move is aimed at demonstrating Japan’s readiness to respond to any acts that violate its sovereignty, according to the source.
But the Abe government will continue deliberations on how to respond to potential intrusions by drones carrying weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear or biological weapons, due to the risks of shooting them down, the source said.
The existing rules on how Air Self-Defense Force fighters should respond to intrusions by manned aircraft mandate that pilots first issue warnings. ASDF pilots are required to down intruding aircraft if they are judged to pose a risk to Japanese nationals after such warnings are ignored.
The government did not have clear rules for surveillance drones because they are unmanned, but after analyzing drones currently being developed by China it has determined that such aircraft are equipped with high-performance cameras and radar that are capable of detecting warnings.