Japan, US announce plan to deploy Patriot missile interceptor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2006, 12:00am

Updated at 12.56pm:
Tokyo and Washington announced a plan to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles and 600 more troops at two US bases in southern Japan by the year's end amid concerns over North Korea's recent missile tests.

The US government announced the plan to set up Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles at Kadena Air Base and Kadena Ammunition Storage Area, both on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The initial operation is expected to begin by the end of the year, it said.

The statement said that the US told Japan on Wednesday of its decision to deploy the missile interceptors, and that the necessary personnel and equipment will be sent to Okinawa starting next month.

An additional 600 US troops will be stationed in Okinawa as part of the deployment, the ministry said in a separate statement.

The move is clearly in response to North Korea's recent missile tests, which drew widespread international condemnation. On July 5, North Korea fired off seven missiles ?X including a long-range Taepodong-2, believed capable of hitting parts of the US

All the missiles fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

''In view of the development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles in the region, and the clear and present threats such as the recent missile launches by North Korea in particular, the Government of Japan will continue to do its utmost to build up its ballistic missile defence capabilities in close co-operation with the United States government and with a sense or urgency,'' the first statement said.

It stressed that the deployment is purely for defence purposes.

''The Patriot PAC-3 is a purely defensive system and will be placed to protect Japan including Okinawa from ballistic missile threats,'' it said.

Tokyo and Washington announced last month that the US would deploy the PAC-3 missiles on American bases here for the first time. They did not give details.

The US and Japan reached the Patriot deployment accord after reports that North Korea might test-fire a long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile became public.

Okinawa is about 1,600 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.