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Japan completes missile defense system deployment: reports

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 29, 2008
Japan completed deploying a ballistic missile defence system in the Tokyo area on Saturday, a day after North Korea reportedly fired short-range missiles off its west coast, news reports said.

Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptors were installed at a Japanese groundforce base in Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, Jiji Press said.

It was the fourth and last set of interceptors for the nation's four-part missile defence system protecting Tokyo as the pacifist nation beefs up its military capability in the face of North Korea and China.

Immediate confirmation of the reports was not available.

Following Pyongyang's reported missile launches on Friday, the Japanese defence ministry said it does not believe that "there is an emergency significantly affecting the country's national security."

The Japanese defence ministry plans to deploy the US-developed PAC-3s at a total of 11 bases in eastern and western Japan by March 2011.

Japan and the United States started working on a more advanced missile shield after North Korea fired a missile over Japan's main island in 1998.

Japan has been repairing relations with China but has also voiced concern about Beijing's rapidly growing military spending, including advances in its cruise missiles and air strike capabilities.

In December, Japan succeeded in shooting down a ballistic missile in space high above the Pacific Ocean as part of joint efforts with the United States to build a shield against a possible North Korean attack.

Japan has tense relations with North Korea in part due to the regime's kidnapping of Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said three or four missiles were fired into the Yellow Sea by the North on Friday.

It said they were Russian-designed Styx ship-to-ship missiles with a range of 46 kilometres (29 miles).

There were several similar launches last summer.

South Korea's presidential spokesman confirmed the missile launches but described them as part of "ordinary military training."

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