Monday, March 26, 2012

Japan to deploy Patriot missiles in Tokyo to guard city from North Korean rocket

Japan is to deploy surface-to-air missiles in central Tokyo in readiness for North Korea's planned rocket launch next month, its defense minister said Monday.

The preparation of an anti-missile battery in the densely packed capital city would be in addition to facilities on the southern island chain of Okinawa, Naoki Tanaka told lawmakers.

"We are working on procedures to deploy the Patriot in the Tokyo metropolitan area, acting on precedent," Tanaka told upper house members, referring to the PAC-3 surface-to-air missile defense system.

"We are also preparing to deploy the Patriot in the Nansei [southwestern] islands including Okinawa," as the second stage of North Korea's rocket is expected to fly over Japan's southernmost island chain, Tanaka added.

The announcement came as South Korea announced Monday that it is also preparing to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it strays into the South's territory during a launch planned for next month, the defense ministry said.

The South Korean and US military are closely monitoring activity at the Tongchang-ri base, a ministry spokesman said, a day after Seoul confirmed the main body of a rocket had been moved to the site in the North's northwest.

Seoul is concerned that the first stage of the rocket, scheduled to drop into the Yellow Sea between South Korea and China, may fall onto the South's territory, the spokesman said.

"We are preparing measures to track the missile's trajectory and shoot it down if it, by any chance, deviates from the planned route and falls into our territory," he said without elaborating.

The North has announced it will fire the rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12-16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il Sung. more