The U.S. military in Japan has relocated its reconnaissance drone operations unit to Okinawa Prefecture despite local objection after its temporary deployment in the Kyushu region, according to the Japanese government, as part of moves to strengthen surveillance of Chinese activities in nearby waters.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters earlier this month that eight MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft began operating from the U.S. Kadena Air Base in the prefecture and will remain stationed there "for an indefinite period."

On Nov. 21 last year, the MQ-9s were tentatively deployed for a year at the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 600 kilometers northeast of the Kadena base.