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Japan says drones included in eased rules for downing flying objects

Use of weapons to be permitted beyond current self-defense-only

Flying object photographed over Aomori prefecture in northern Japan in 2021.     © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday that drones will be included as conceivable targets once the government eases rules for weapon use by the Self-Defense Forces against unidentified flying objects violating the nation's airspace.

The government is planning to relax the requirements on the scenarios in which the SDF can shoot down an unidentified flying object after several -- which the Defense Ministry suspect were unmanned Chinese spy balloons -- were spotted over Japan in recent years.

By taking steps such as easing the conditions of weapon use, Japan will be in a position to ease "growing fears" that unidentified flying objects such as drones and balloons are intruding into the country's territorial skies, Hamada said at a press conference.

"To defend the lives and properties of Japanese people and safeguard our nation's sovereignty, we will respond more strictly" to unidentified flying objects to "eliminate risks for commercial flights," Hamada added.

Currently, arms can be used only for legitimate self-defense or the avoidance of clear and present danger.

On Thursday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and its junior coalition partner Komeito endorsed the easing of rules regarding the use of weapons, and this is expected to be realized by modifying operational use rather than a revision of the law.

Hamada also said his ministry will conduct necessary reviews of related regulations "appropriately and quickly."

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