Japan may purchase unmanned aircraft to boost surveillance

The Japanese government will consider purchasing unmanned surveillance aircraft, similar to the U.S. military's Global Hawk, to enhance its surveillance capabilities at a high altitude and better respond to the changing security environment in East Asia, a draft outline of the Defense Ministry's interim report showed Wednesday.

In addition to the procurement of the drone, the outline also says Japan will begin discussions on whether to have the capabilities to attack an enemy base amid ballistic missile threats, and to boost the maritime functions of the Self-Defense Forces.

Japan has been concerned about China's growing assertiveness in waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, administered by Japan but claimed by China. Beijing continues to send surveillance aircraft and ships in apparent protest against Tokyo's purchase last year of some of the islets from a private Japanese owner.

North Korea's nuclear and missile development is also one of the main security concerns.

The government is planning to compile new defense guidelines and have them approved by the Cabinet by the end of the year. The interim report, expected to be released Friday, will be used as a basis for the guidelines that will define Tokyo's longer-term defense policy.

Abe aims to revise the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, and to have defense forces, rather than the current SDF. A government panel focusing on collective self-defense is expected to compile a report on whether to lift the self-imposed ban this fall.

The Defense Ministry will also reveal details about the kind and number of equipment -- tanks, destroyers and fighter planes -- in an appendix for the guidelines, the outline showed.

The ministry once considered not disclosing such information, as uncertainty remained over what would become of the debate on collective self-defense. Since Tokyo has called for Beijing to become more transparent about its defense policy, the ministry decided to disclose information in the appendix, a Defense Ministry source said.