US Sale Of Armed Drones To Japan And South Korea Would Transform Tensions In The Pacific

Global Hawk Drone

America’s two closest Asian allies hope introduce U.S. unmanned Global Hawk aircraft by 2015.

According to, South Korea is looking to buy four RQ-4 Global Hawks to “to monitor and deter regional threats in 2015 and beyond” while AFP reports that Japan hopes to launch the armed drones by 2015 “in a bid to counter China’s growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku Islands.”

Both countries elected conservative, pro-American leaders last month.

The sales, which would be the first Global Hawk purchases by countries in the Asia-Pacific region, is part of the U.S. pivot toward Asia that will include increased arms sales to Pacific allies.

The Pentagon’s defence Security Cooperation Agency told Reuters that sales agreements with countries in the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of activity rose 5.4 per cent in fiscal 2012 to $13.7 billion.

The announcements come as the southern Chinese province of Hainan enacts a controversial policy of boarding ships which enter what China considers its territory in the South China Sea.

Beijing has been sending maritime patrol vessels into waters near disputed islets in the East China Sea —known as Diaoyu to the Chinese and Senkaku to the Japanese — after Tokyo nationalized the chain in September. China recently transferred two destroyers and nine other ex-navy vessels to its maritime surveillance fleet.

Last month Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese government plane entered what Japan considers its airspace over the disputed territory.

south china seaA drone range of 3,000 miles would give both Japan (green) and South Korea (red) considerable reach in the Pacific.


The Global Hawk has a range of 8,700 nautical miles and a ceiling of 60,000 feet. The Chinese blog AirForceWorld claims that the Global Hawk can fly more than 3,400 miles away from its base and stay there for 24 hours.

That would mean that South Korea could hover over North Korea for extended periods of time while Japan could monitor its interests in the South China Sea, but some doubt that China would allow such widespread surveillance to happen.

SEE ALSO: Why China Thinks It Can Annex The South China Sea

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