The Defense Ministry is planning a new protocol to deal with foreign unmanned aircraft that approach Japan’s airspace, like the Chinese military drone that ventured near the disputed Senkaku Islands last month.
The protocol will include provisions for “necessary measures,” or shooting down a drone, if it continues to violate Japan’s airspace and poses a serious and immediate danger to the lives and property of the Japanese public, sources said.
“Drones, unlike regular airplanes, may not respond to warnings, so they represent a major risk,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a news conference on Oct. 1.
If a foreign aircraft threatens to enter Japan’s airspace without permission, the current protocol says the Air Self-Defense Force should immediately scramble a fighter jet and use radio and visual signals to call on the pilot to land or leave the area.
It says warning shots should be fired ahead of the aircraft if the pilot refuses to comply.
But an unmanned drone may not respond to such radio signals or warning shots.
Officials will work out measures to deal with drone-specific issues and incorporate them into the “rules of engagement,” which set specific protocols on the use of arms.
On Sept. 9, a Chinese military drone from the northwest flew as far south as an area 200 kilometers northeast of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea before returning by the same route.
Beijing claims sovereignty over the isles and calls them the Diaoyu Islands.
Although earlier reports indicated that Chinese military drones have flown above the East China Sea on several occasions, Sept. 9 was the first time one came so close that it could be visually discerned by Japanese defense staff, a senior Defense Ministry official said.
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