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Us In Final Stages Of Installing Missile Defense System In Japan

Patriot PAC-3 system in Japan.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 1, 2006
The US military has entered the final stage of installing an advanced surface-to-air missile defense system in southern Japan, amid mounting concern over North Korea's missile launches. The first batch of equipment for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system was unloaded Saturday at a military port on Okinawa island, amid protests from a handful of anti-war activists, press reports said.

The operation was part of a move to relocate an air defense battalion with some 600 soldiers to the Kadena US air force base in Okinawa from Fort Bliss in Texas. The battalion is equipped with 24 (PAC-3) missiles.

Under an agreement reached with Tokyo last July on realigning US forces in Japan, the US will deploy PAC-3 missile interceptors at its bases in Japan and make them operational as soon as possible.

Television footage Saturday showed trucks and containers being unloaded from a US-chartered freighter which anchored at the port late Friday.

The Kyodo news agency, quoting US military sources, reported that the PAC-3 system itself was scheduled to arrive in Okinawa within two weeks.

The US plans to begin partial operation of the PAC-3 system by the end of December and become fully operational by the end of next March, Kyodo said.

At the US forces headquarters in Tokyo and at the Kadena base, noone was available to confirm the reports. The land-based PAC-3, together with the projected sea-based Standard Missile 3 (SM-3), will make up a two-phased advanced anti-missile shield.

The SM-3 intercepts ballistic missiles when they reach their highest point outside of the atmosphere, while the PAC-3 is used to destroy missiles that evade SM-3 interceptions. The accuracy of these systems is still being debated.

SM-3s, jointly developed by the two countries, will be based on destroyers equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis air-defence system.

The missile-defence project has been a pillar of the strengthened Japan-US military alliance in recent years.

Japan was prompted to boost its missile defenses in cooperation with the United States in 1998 when North Korea lobbed a suspected long-range missile over its main island and into the Pacific.

North Korea's July 5 firing of seven missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) also fueled the drive for the joint missile scheme.

On Tuesday, the US military activated a powerful new missile defense radar at Camp Shariki in the north of the main Japanese island of Honshu.

The so-called X-Band Radar Transportable (FBX-T) is part of a network of forward deployed missile defense sensors that also includes US Aegis destroyers.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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