Four U-2 spy planes are on temporary assignment in Japan. File Photo by EPA
June 2 (UPI) -- A group of U-2 spy planes from U.S. Forces Korea are being temporarily deployed to Okinawa, Japan, according to a Japanese news service.
Jiji Press reported Friday the U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, four in total, are to be deployed in southern Japan for about a month, at Kadena Air Base.
Three of the planes arrived in Japan from Osan Air Base in South Korea on Wednesday, and the fourth aircraft followed Thursday.
The planes were accompanied by about 180 U.S. troops, Japanese and U.S. officials said, according to Jiji.
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed the "Dragon Lady," is a single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude spy plane used for intelligence gathering.
The aircraft have been actively deployed near the Korean demilitarized zone since 1976 in order to collect data on North Korea military movements.
The spy plane was also involved in reconnaissance flights during the Cold War and has flown over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Cuba.
The deployment of four planes to Japan does not mean spying operations on the peninsula are being suspended.
A U.S. Air Force official who spoke to Jiji on the condition of anonymity said regular flights would continue to support allies in the region.
The United States and Japan have stepped up joint exercises as North Korea continues to launch ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The USS Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson conducted drills this week with a convoy from Japan's maritime self-defense forces.
North Korea has stated the joint drills pose threats to the region.