Japan, US plan to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles

Japan and the United States announced a plan on Wednesday to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles and boost troop numbers at US bases in Japan as a top government spokesperson called for more action on North Korea over its recent missile tests.

The US government plans to set up Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles at bases on southern Japan’s Okinawa island, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Patriot missiles will be in operation by the end of the year, and the US will also post 600 more troops on Okinawa, the statement and defence officials said. The US already has about 50 000 troops in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

“In view of the development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles in the region, and the clear and present threats such as the recent missile launches by North Korea ... Japan will continue to do its utmost to build its ballistic missile defence capabilities in close cooperation with the US,” the statement said.

It stressed the deployment would be purely for defence purposes.

“The Patriot PAC-3 is a purely defensive system and will be placed to protect Japan including Okinawa from ballistic missile threats,” the statement said.
Okinawa is about 1 600km south-west of Tokyo.

The plan to boost missile defences came as Japan’s top government spokesperson said North Korea must be pressed so it has no choice but to stop its missile tests and return to nuclear talks.

“North Korea must be made to understand that if it does not alter its stance, there will be bad consequences,” chief Cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe said at a privately sponsored speech in Tokyo.

“We must create a situation that North Korea has no other choice than to take some big decisions,” Abe said. He urged the reclusive regime to resume a self-imposed moratorium on missile launches and rejoin six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions.

Abe said world powers needed to coordinate efforts to impose a UN Security Council ban on trading in missile-related technology with Pyongyang, but did not say whether Japan would separately impose further sanctions.

North Korea drew international condemnation when it test-fired seven missiles, including a Taepodong-2 believed capable of hitting parts of the US, on July 5. The missiles fell harmlessly into the sea.

Tokyo immediately slapped sanctions on the North, banning one of its trading ships from Japanese waters and prohibiting North Korean officials from travelling to Japan.

The UN Security Council also passed a resolution criticising the missile tests and banning all UN member states from trading with Pyongyang in technology related to missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

Japan had pushed for a resolution backed by the threat of military force, but backed down when China threatened a veto amid Beijing’s and Seoul’s accusations that Tokyo was overreacting.

The North has since rejected the resolution, warning of further repercussions.

The spokesperson added that Japan was open to informal six-country talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme at next week’s international forum in Malaysia between South-East Asian countries and larger world powers.

News reports have said the talks could take place on the sidelines of the forum, which is expected to bring together North Korea’s Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers from other Asian countries.

Pyongyang has refused to return to the six-country nuclear negotiations to protest US-imposed financial restrictions over alleged counterfeiting and money laundering activities. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. - Sapa-AP

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