• Japan's relationship with Russia worsened after it claimed the Kuril islands 
  • Experts said Japan is very interested in Turkey's Bayraktar TB2 drones
  • But, Japan would need constitutional approval to acquire drones 

Despite the official policy of pacifism, which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes, Japan is now looking to acquire attack drones for its arsenal. This comes amid Tokyo's increasing concerns over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its territorial disputes with Moscow over the Kuril Islands.

Japanese defense officials are considering buying drones as they believe these rudimentary weapons are not only impactful but also "cost-effective and easy to deploy," reported South China Morning Post.

"There is no doubt that reconnaissance and attack functionality using a multitude of low-cost ‘swarm drones’ would be militarily advantageous," Yoshihide Yoshida, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defence Forces, was quoted by the news outlet.

Japan had already taken the first step in this regard when it began using U.S.-built drones to identify and track ships across the Pacific last year. It went on to deploy unmanned Reaper drones to a defense force base for the first time in January. Seven MQ-9 Reapers have been stationed at the airbase at Kanoya in southern Kagoshima Prefecture.

But, the movement gained impetus seeing how drones helped Ukraine resist the invading forces.

"Turkey sold Ukraine the good – but still simple – Bayraktar TB2 drone about three years ago, and it has performed extremely well in Ukraine, alongside what are essentially off-the-shelf hobby drones that have been fitted with small cameras," said Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University, told South China Morning Post.

He added that Japan was very interested to learn how these drones are being used and how they are performing in Ukraine, but also their relevance in a potential conflict with China.

Though Japan had started discussions with Israeli drone developers as back as 2015, it didn't want the move to get any public attention for the fear of antagonizing Arab nations. However, Japan aims to strike a pact with regard to the joint development of drone technology.

But, there are other hurdles, including whether the country has the right under its constitution to deploy a weapons system that could be considered offensive. "Under Japan’s current peace constitution, discussions need to take place around whether any new technology can be considered aggressive or offensive, and that is what is being considered now," an analyst from the National Institute of Defence Studies in Tokyo told the news outlet.

This comes as tensions flare between Russia and Japan over the Kuril Islands. Though Japan had never really considered Russia a threat to China or North Korea, the invasion changed the scene. According to reports, Japan recently described four Kuril islands, whose ownership it disputes with Moscow as "illegally occupied by Russia."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shot back at Tokyo saying the islands are "inalienable territory of the Russian Federation." Peskov also said Japan has become "an unfriendly country and has joined in a whole series of hostile actions toward Russia."

Map showing the Kuril islands disputed by Japan and Russia.
Map showing the Kuril islands disputed by Japan and Russia. AFP / AFP