The Japanese and U.S. governments are considering relocating the U.S. military's MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drones, deployed temporarily in Kagoshima Prefecture, to Okinawa Prefecture, informed sources said Thursday.

The unmanned aerial vehicles are expected to be transferred from a Maritime Self-Defense Force air base in Kanoya, Kagoshima, to the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa as early as November.

The move is part of efforts to strengthen surveillance around the Nansei island chain, which is made up of islands in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures, where Chinese military vessels are boosting their activities.

Eight Reapers have been stationed at the Kanoya base for a one-year deployment from November last year. Their operating unit has some 200 personnel.

One of the eight deviated from the runway during landing in August this year, resulting in a halt to MQ-9 operations. The flight operations were resumed Thursday, according to the Defense Ministry.

In their meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed that the Reaper is extremely important for strengthening intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.