Japan and China step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands

The Guardian reports: Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.

Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.

Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.

Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.

Print Friendly
facebooktwittermail

Comments

  1. Ian Arbuckle says:

    Rumour has it that it was Chinese technology that took over and landed the US drone over Iran, so Abe should keep that in mind when buying “made in USA”.

    But on an aside can’t you just imagine future wars; Over an uninhabited island off the coast of Taiwan two drones piloted from far away battle it out in the skies at 2 k up. This would take the folly of war to new heights!

    Abe is just winding up the island question to satisfy his US sponsors and drum up false patriotism while avoiding more serious domestic matters. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is the archetype of insanity, doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.