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MISSILE DEFENSE
US to intercept N.Korea missile if allies at risk: admiral
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 9, 2013


Japan deploys anti-North Korean missiles in Tokyo
Tokyo (AFP) April 9, 2013 - Japan has deployed Patriot missiles in its capital as it readies to defend the 30 million people who live in greater Tokyo from any North Korean attack, officials said Tuesday.

Two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile launchers were stationed at the defence ministry in Tokyo before dawn, a ministry spokesman said, while Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said "we are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert".

Local reports said batteries would be deployed in another two locations in the greater Tokyo area.

"The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people's lives and ensure their safety," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Tuesday morning.

"As North Korea keeps making provocative comments, Japan, cooperating with relevant countries, will do what we have to do.

"For the moment, the most important thing is to implement sanctions under the UN Security Council resolutions," Abe said.

Tokyo's response thus far to the threats emanating from Pyongyang has been low key and Tuesday's moves are the most visible yet that it is rattled.

On the streets of the capital, some people gave voice to that disquiet.

"If they fire a missile, there's definitely going to be some damage. I am quite scared," Yoshiharu Urata told AFP.

PAC-3 batteries will also be installed in the semi-tropical island chain of Okinawa, Onodera told a television programme broadcast Monday.

He said Okinawa was "the place that is most effective in responding to emergencies... so we should deploy the unit in Okinawa on a permanent basis".

Japan's armed forces are authorised to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory, a defence ministry spokesman said Monday.

In addition to the PAC-3s, Aegis destroyers equipped with sea-based interceptor missiles have been deployed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the defence official said.

North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases including in Japan and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.

Intelligence reports suggest Pyongyang has readied two mid-range missiles on mobile launchers on its east coast and plans a test-firing before the April 15 birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

But Toshimitsu Shigemura, professor of international relations at Waseda University, said Tokyo's measures were purely precautionary and it was unlikely that Pyongyang would actually target Japan.

"This is a verbal war and it's not accompanied by actual military actions," he told AFP.

"Government officials know from satellite images that Pyongyang has not mobilised its troops or weapons on the frontline, except that they moved mobile missile launchers to the east coast."

He said a mis-targeted missile that might end up falling uncontrollably towards Japanese territory was most likely what Tokyo was readying for.

Narushige Michishita of the National Graduate institute For Policy Studies said Pyongyang's plan this time was to test-launch a mid-range ballistic missile.

He said North Korea's lack of experience meant there was a "risk of its ending in failure".

"In that case, the rocket is likely to fall towards Japan's western region, instead of its possible target of the US territory of Guam," he said.

A top US military commander said Tuesday he favored shooting down a North Korean missile only if it threatened the United States or Washington's allies in the region.

When asked by lawmakers if he supported knocking out any missile fired by North Korea, Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of US Pacific Command, said: "I would not recommend that."

But the four-star admiral told the Senate Armed Services Committee he would "certainly recommend" intercepting an incoming North Korean missile "if it was in defense of our allies" or the United States.

Amid widespread speculation North Korea could be preparing a missile launch, Locklear also said he was confident the US military would be able to detect quickly where any missile was headed.

"It doesn't take long for us to determine where it's going and where it's going to land," said Locklear, who oversees American forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US military has a powerful radar in Japan to help track a possible missile launch as well as naval ships in the area equipped with anti-missile weaponry. Japan and South Korea also have their own missile defense systems.

The Pacific Command chief's comments underscored the delicate balancing act faced by President Barack Obama as his administration attempts to demonstrate US resolve without aggravating the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Given North Korea's repeated violations of UN Security Council resolutions that bar the pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, Pyongyang represents "a clear and direct threat to US national security and regional peace and stability," Locklear said.

North Korea has issued dire threats that it could stage an attack on the United States with nuclear weapons, but experts doubt it is able to do so.

Both the admiral and lawmakers voiced concern that possible miscalculation could trigger an unintended war, and Locklear acknowledged the situation was "volatile."

To try to manage tensions, a new joint military plan between the United States and South Korea was designed to carefully counter North Korea's provocations but "without unnecessary escalation," he said.

With Pyongyang issuing almost daily threats against Washington and its allies, the United States was struggling to discern the motives and behavior of the Stalinist state's young leader, Kim Jong-Un, he said.

"We have limited understanding of North Korean leadership intent, which remains a concern to long-term stability," Locklear said in written testimony.

Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said hopes had long been dashed that North Korea's leader would be a reformer.

"Any guarded optimism about North Korea that may have accompanied the December 2011 death of long-time dictator Kim Jong Il has faded as the new regime has adopted many of the same destructive policies ...as its predecessors," Levin said.

The senator and other lawmakers expressed frustration over China's role, saying it needed to use its influence with North Korea to defuse the crisis.

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