Japan Readying Patriot Missiles to Defend Against North Korea's Suspected Upcoming Nuclear Missile Test
Japan Deploys Patriot Missiles to Defend Tokyo from North Korean Threats
Military moves three PAC-3 batteries in defensive ring around central Tokyo - and more are likely to follow
By VASUDEVAN SRIDHARAN:
April 9, 2013 7:21 AM GMT
Members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces deploy PAC-3 missiles at the defence ministry in Tokyo. - Reuters
Japan has deployed Patriot missiles in and around central Tokyo as a defensive measure should North Korea decide to launch an attack amid rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
Tokyo has moved three Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile launchers, according to the defence ministry. Two more batteries are likely to be stationed at other places.
The units are meant to defend the headquarters of the defence ministry and key military installations in the capital as well as the 30 million people who live in greater Tokyo.
"We are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert," said Tokyo's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.
He said another unit would be stationed in Okinawa prefecture as "the place that is most effective in responding to emergencies".
Although Japan has poured scorn on North Korea's threats thus far, the latest move is evidence that it could be preparing for the worst.
Tokyo had already deployed Aegis class destroyers equipped with missile interceptors in the Sea of Japan to counter the North Korean threats, and authorised its forces to shoot down any missile emanating from North Korea.
"The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people's lives and ensure their safety. 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," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
Further details about the deployment have been withheld by the authorities because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
"We'd like to refrain from explaining further because it would give away details of the cards we hold. At any rate, we have taken thorough measures to ensure the safety of the people," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
The announcement from Tokyo, Washington's close ally in the region, has come after Seoul-based reports suggested that North Korea has moved two medium-range missiles off its eastern coast.
While former North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung's birthday falls on 15 April, experts believe Pyongyang's current leadership may resort to provocative actions coinciding with the occasion to boost its own reputation domestically.
North Korea suspected of preparing for nuclear test
South Korean government says there are signs the regime is getting ready for what would be its fourth nuclear weapon test
Justin McCurry in Seoul guardian.co.uk,
North Korea could be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test, following signs of activity at the country's main testing site, South Korea's unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, said on Monday.
Ryoo told a meeting with MPs at the national assembly that Seoul had acquired evidence of increased movement of vehicles and personnel at Punggye-ri, the Yonhap news agency said.
The site on North Korea's north-east coast is where the country's three previous controlled nuclear detonations – in 2006, 2009 and on 12 February this year – took place.
Ryoo's comments came after a South Korean newspaper quoted an unnamed government source as saying that workers appeared to be preparing for another test at Punggye-ri.
The JoongAng Ilbo quoted the source as saying that South Korean intelligence had detected "increased activity of labour forces and vehicles" at the site.
"We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation, which is very similar to the situation ahead of the third nuclear test. We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US," it said.
The prospect of a nuclear test is certain to add to tensions on the peninsula amid reports that the regime in Pyongyang could be planning to launch a medium-range missile from its east coat, possibly as early as Wednesday.
Any missile launch is expected to be a test rather than a targeted strike and could take place in the runup to the 101st anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, on 15 April. Another significant date is the anniversary of the foundation of the Korean people's army 10 days later.
Last week, North Korea warned foreign embassies in Pyongyang it could not guarantee their safety from the threat of conflict after Wednesday this week and advised them to consider pulling their staff out of the capital. read more at Guardian