A U.S. Global Hawk surveillance drone arrived Saturday morning at the Misawa Air Base in northeastern Japan in the first deployment of such an aircraft in the country.
It is one of a pair of Guam-based Global Hawks to be deployed at Misawa in Aomori Prefecture from around May to October. The other is expected to arrive at the base on Wednesday.
The two reconnaissance aircraft will likely start operating in the Asia-Pacific region in early June.
The temporary deployment in Japan of the unmanned aircraft is believed to be aimed at avoiding typhoons that frequently hit Guam during summer.
It is also believed to be aimed at monitoring North Korea and China at a time when Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs as well as Beijing's maritime assertiveness have raised security concerns in Japan.
The Global Hawk, which is 14.5 meters in length with a wingspan of about 40 meters, is capable of conducting surveillance missions for long periods at an altitude of over 15,000 meters.
Japan's Defense Ministry tried to ease local safety concerns, saying that since the Global Hawk flies at such a high altitude, it will have little impact on local air traffic.
The ministry also said it will make efforts to ensure safety by asking the U.S. side to arrange flight plans in advance.
Still, some local residents voiced concern about the deployment of the U.S. surveillance aircraft.
"Because it is an unmanned aircraft, I'm wondering if it can properly deal with any trouble that occurs," said 69-year-old Kunisada Ogasawara.
John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, expressed hope that the temporary deployment of Global Hawks to the Misawa base will contribute to enhancing the monitoring capability of U.S. forces in the region.