MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan - The United States has deployed its most advanced long-distance surveillance drones in Japan that enables the US Air Force to keep an eye on North Korea and growing naval power China.
The US is to deploy two unarmed Global Hawk drones to Japan, a key regional ally for America, which has shifted its strategic focus to the Pacific and Asia. The deployment of drones is likely to anger China and North Korea the two nations that have been working to improve their own unmanned aircraft fleets.
The Associated Press cited Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, commander of US Forces in Japan, as saying Friday that the drones will remain at Misawa Air Base until October, "when the typhoon season on the drones' home base on the Pacific island of Guam is over".
The American general declined to comment on specific missions of the US drones. He noted that only the Global Hawk's "capabilities are well known".
Angelella said the US had no firm plans about similar rotations from Guam to Misawa in the future.
The advanced Global Hawk is said to be capable of conducting long-range missions at a flight level of 60,000 feet and can "loiter" at one site for 24 hours or more.
From the base in Japan, the drones will be able to conduct surveillance on North Korea's nuclear sites, and on China and North Korea's naval missions.
The US military has been keeping much of the drone's work secret. But Angelella spoke of its use in humanitarian missions including Japan's 2011 tsunami and the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last year, according to the AP.
More recently, he said, the drone was used in surveillance work following mass abduction of more than 300 girls in Nigeria by Islamic extremists.
US has many military bases in Japan but safety concerns have raised certain questions as many of these bases are located in heavily populated areas.
The US maintains about 50,000 troops in Japan, the headquarters of the US 7th Fleet and more than 10,000 Marines.
Amid some perceived threats from China and North Korea, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been forthright in allowing the Japanese military to be able to fight more closely with US troops in contingencies.