November 26, 2013 12:45 pm JST
Senkaku showdown: US to send in drones
WASHINGTON -- U.S. drones are heading to the Senkaku Islands.
Japan and the U.S. will step up joint warning and surveillance activities over the islands in Okinawa and other parts of the East China Sea. The U.S. military's Global Hawk unmanned spy planes will be heavily involved in these activities around the islands known as Diaoyu in China.
The increased joint activities, which will also involve the Japan Self-Defense Force's E-2C early warning aircraft, are to reduce the risk of accidental clashes amid heightened tensions.
China's establishment Saturday of an air defense identification zone, which covers airspace over the disputed islands, escalated tensions. Japan and the U.S. will put pressure on China to retract its decision through this demonstration of security solidarity.
Global Hawks can fly for more than 30 hours at high altitudes of about 20km. Ordinary fighter jets reportedly cannot reach the high-flying drone. They are also capable of getting close to China's airspace and monitoring aircraft activity across the sea through high-performance cameras.
Governments are ramping up pressure on China. A security council meeting at the Japanese prime minister's official residence Tuesday morning discussed the escalation in the East China Sea. The government decided to strongly urge China to restrain itself, in partnership with international allies.
Businesses were taking a different tack. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways started Nov. 23 submitting flight plans to Chinese authorities regarding their flights passing through any part of the Chinese ADIZ. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference after the security council meeting that the Japanese airlines do not need to submit such plans to Chinese authorities.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a separate news conference that Japan will deal with the issue through close partnership with the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan, which have also expressed concerns about the Chinese ADIZ.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday criticized China's latest move as "unnecessarily inflammatory." He made the remark to reporters travelling with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.