Japan deploys first advanced Patriot missile defence system in Tokyo
JAPAN: Japan began deploying its first advanced Patriot missile
defense system Friday near Tokyo, part of an effort to accelerate
missile defense capabilities following North Koreaâ€™s missile and nuclear
tests last year.
The installment comes about a year earlier than originally scheduled.
Two PAC-3 launchers, brought in on about 10 military trucks, arrived
at the Iruma Self-Defense Force base in Saitama, just north of Tokyo,
just before dawn. Japan plans to deploy about 30 mobile PAC-3 launchers
at 10 military bases across the country through 2010.
The Patriots would be used as a last resort if interceptors fired
from U.S. or Japanese ships fail to knock out incoming missiles. Japan
will begin introducing Standard Missile-3 interceptors on its destroyers
over the next few years as part of that effort.
Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma welcomed Fridayâ€™s deployment.
â€śWe will continue to improve our preparedness by steadily achieving
deployment plans that are coming up,â€ť he said.
The Patriot surface-to-air missiles offer protection for a relatively
limited area - about a 100-kilometer (60-mile) radius.
They work on a hit-to-kill basis as the target missile is making its
descent toward its target, rather than intercepting the target at a
higher altitude earlier in its flight.
Japan stepped up its missile defenses after North Korea shot a
ballistic missile over its main island in 1998.
Tokyo decided to further accelerate the building of its missile
shield following North Koreaâ€™s test of long-range ballistic missiles in
July and its nuclear test in October.
Last month, the U.S. military deployed a newly operational detachment
of Patriot missiles at a base on the southern Japanese island of
Okinawa, where most of the roughly 50,000 American troops in the country
The missiles are believed to cost roughly US$2 million (euro1.5
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., which makes the PAC-3, said
in January that it expects to expand its ballistic missile defense
business overseas in the next few years as regions such as Asia face
growing missile threats from North Korea and other hostile states.
Lockheed officials said South Korea and Taiwan have expressed
interest in buying the latest version of the Patriot missile. India and
some countries in the Middle East may also eventually buy the program,
the company said.