A U.S. military unit operating MQ-9 spy drones has completed its withdrawal from the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Kanoya air base in Kagoshima Prefecture for relocation to Okinawa Prefecture, the Japanese government said Sunday.

The Defense Ministry's Kyushu Defense Bureau announced the unit's withdrawal from the Japanese base, where eight MQ-9 aircraft were operated for a limited period of one year from November last year. Up to 200 U.S. military personnel related to the operations were stationed there.

The unit will be transferred to the U.S. military's Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, near Kagoshima. The drones are set to be used to strengthen surveillance of Chinese military ships in the East China Sea.

The bureau had told the Kagoshima prefectural and Kanoya municipal governments that the unit would be withdrawn Tuesday, but it also said the schedule might change due to weather or other conditions.