4 October 2010
Japan may buy US drones: report
by Staff Writers


Tokyo (AFP) - Japan's Defence Ministry is looking to buy three US-made Global Hawk spy drones to help monitor China's military movements and North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, a report said Monday.

Japan hopes to use the camera-equipped unarmed aircraft to boost the officially pacifist nation's intelligence-gathering capabilities, watch remote islands and monitor suspicious ships in and near its waters, Kyodo News said.

The unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft each cost around 50 million dollars, Kyodo said, citing unnamed ministry sources.

Equipped with sophisticated communications capabilities, the Global Hawk can fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,000 metres) -- about twice as high as commercial passenger planes -- for more than 30 hours on autopilot, it said.

An ongoing territorial row with China that began when Tokyo arrested a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters in the East China Sea nearly four weeks ago has frayed diplomatic ties between the two Asian powers.

Japan's defence ministry hopes to include the drone purchase plan in its new mid-term defence programme, which covers the period up to March 2016, Kyodo said.

In what would inevitably raise tensions with China, Japan and the United States are also planning to hold a joint military exercise in December with a focus on defending remote Japanese islands, Kyodo said in a separate report.

The exercise, using a scenario in which remote islands are invaded by armed forces, would deploy Japan-based US aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the sea drill and Japanese ground troops on the land, Kyodo said.

earlier related report
Japan to probe claims it sought nuclear arms in 1960s

Tokyo (AFP) Oct 4, 2010 - Japan is to investigate a report that it considered arming itself with nuclear weapons in the late 1960s despite its pacifist vow to shun them, a senior government official said Monday.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that Japan secretly considered going nuclear and sought advice from what was then West Germany in meetings with foreign ministry officials in February 1969 in the Japanese resort of Hakone.

The report cited confidential West German foreign ministry documents.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has ordered his ministry to investigate the report, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto told a news conference.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, the top government spokesman, said details of the allegation needed to be clarified, including which "chain of command" was responsible for such talks.

Japan, the only nation to be attacked with nuclear weapons, was hit with two atomic bombs by the United States in the closing days of World War II.

It has maintained its policy against the possession, production and presence of nuclear weapons in its territory since 1967.

The non-nuclear principles were first declared by then-prime minister Eisaku Sato in 1967 and a resolution to abide by them was adopted in parliament in 1971.

In the secret talks, the Japanese side said it had sufficient technology to produce nuclear weapons to guard itself against the nuclearisation of the region after China conducted a nuclear test in 1964, NHK reported.

But Germany, divided after World War II, responded that it would be difficult to cooperate with any Japanese nuclear ambitions.

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