The US Navy’s first advanced P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft has arrived in Japan, the start of a deployment that will upgrade the US’ ability to hunt submarines and other vessels in seas close to China as tension in the region mounts.
The deployment, planned before China last month established an air defense identification zone covering islands controlled by Japan and claimed by Beijing and Taiwan, includes six aircraft to be delivered to Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa this month.
The first arrived on Sunday, a spokesman for the US Navy said. The mission in the waters west of Japan’s main islands will be the new aircraft’s first anywhere.
The jet, built by Boeing Co based on its 737 passenger plane, has been built to replace the aging propeller-powered Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, which has been in service for 50 years.
Packed with the latest radar equipment and armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, the P-8 is able to fly farther and stay out on mission longer than the P-3.
The arrival of the P-8 came a day before US Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Tokyo.
In related news, China’s envoy to the Philippines yesterday said her country has a sovereign right to establish a maritime air defense zone over the East China Sea and replicate it over another disputed region.
Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing (馬克卿) defended Beijing’s decision to establish the zone in an area between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
Neighboring countries say they will not honor the new zone, believed to be aimed at claiming disputed territory.
When asked about concerns that China might set up a similar zone over the disputed South China Sea, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Ma said it was within the Chinese government’s right to decide where and when to set up such a zone.
However, she added she could not tell if China has such a plan.
Additional reporting by AP