|TOKYO - Japan and the United States will deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles on American bases here for the first time, officials said Monday, just days after reports that North Korea may test a missile that could reach both nations.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maka said the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles have not been sent to Japan yet and details on the timetable and locations for the eventual deployment have not been announced. The U.S. and Japan reached the accord earlier this month after reports of a possible North Korean test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile became public, Japan's Defense Agency said.
Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts intensified Monday to halt any North Korean launch after Pyongyang insisted it has the right to go ahead with one.
At the White House, President Bush said North Korea should heed warnings by China and other nations not to test a missile. He also called on North Korea to declare "what they have on top of that vehicle and what are their intentions."
"I have made clear to our partners on this issue _ that would be Japan and South Korea and China and Russia _ that we need to send a focused message to the North Koreans and that this launch, you know, is provocative," Bush said.
The PAC-3 are designed to intercept ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or aircraft. But a Japanese news report said the PAC-3 may be unable to hit North Korea's latest long-range missile.
Confirmation of the Patriot deployment emerged after Tokyo and Washington signed a separate agreement on Friday to expand their cooperation on a joint ballistic missile defense shield, committing themselves to joint production of interceptor missiles.
Last year, Japan and the U.S. signed an agreement allowing Japan to produce its own PAC-3 missiles for deployment at Japanese bases. Japan's Defense Agency also has announced plans to buy 124 Patriot surface-to-air missiles by 2010.
In a further step to strengthen defenses, the U.S. has also moved up its planned test of a missile-detecting radar system in northern Japan, Kyodo News agency reported Monday, citing an unidentified U.S. official in Washington.
The U.S. also has Patriots stationed in South Korea. The U.S. military in 2004 completed deployment of PAC-3 missile batteries at Gwangju Air Base, about 150 miles south of Seoul. PAC-3 missiles have also been deployed in Taiwan.
The Pentagon spokesman said the Japanese and U.S. governments have been meeting periodically on the Patriot deployment since last year as part of plans to realign the U.S. military in Japan. Officials announced last month that the Patriots would be stationed within existing U.S. facilities and areas in Japan. They have said they would deploy the interceptors as soon as possible.
"We still have considerable work to do with the Government of Japan before we can be more specific about a final site for this deployment," said Maka, who also said there are no details on the number of additional U.S. troops needed to operate the new system.
The U.S.-Japanese agreement on the Patriots was first reported Monday by Japan's largest newspaper, Yomiuri. It said the U.S. military would deploy three or four batteries on Okinawa by the end of the year and send an additional 500 to 600 U.S. troops there.
Up to 16 missiles can fit in a single PAC-3 battery, according to the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp.
The plan was proposed by U.S. officials during a June 17 meeting in Hawaii, Yomiuri reported, quoting unidentified government officials.
Recent intelligence reports have indicated North Korea may be fueling a Taepodong-2, one of its most advanced missiles believed capable of reaching parts of the U.S. The North had maintained a self-imposed moratorium on such launches since 1999.
Japanese Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga said Monday "it appears to be a fact that the missile has been mounted on a launch platform," but it was unclear whether it was being fueled _ despite intelligence reports suggesting the contrary.
It was unclear whether the PAC-3 would be effective in the current standoff. The PAC-3 is aimed at complementing the Standard Missile-3 installed on vessels equipped with the Aegis radar system capable of tracking missile launches. But PAC-3, a medium-to long-range interceptor, may be unable to shoot down long-range missiles such as Taepodong-2, Yomiuri said.
Patriot missiles failed in many cases to destroy Iraqi Scuds fired at Israel and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War. The PAC-3 was designed as an improvement of the original Patriot that would be better able to destroy missiles in flight.
Kyodo said the test run of the X-Band, a high-resolution radar capable of detecting incoming missiles, was initially scheduled to begin weeks later. However, Kyodo said testing could start as early as Monday.
Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Agency, which liaises with U.S. military bases in Japan, said the report about the radar installation could not be immediately confirmed.
The X-Band radar had been transferred from a U.S. base in Japan to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force's Shariki base at Tsugaru, some 360 miles northeast of Tokyo.
The radar deployment is part of the joint missile defense project, which began after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan in 1998.
Diplomacy aimed at defusing the standoff with North Korea gathered pace Monday. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was traveling Monday evening to Beijing on a two-day visit to seek China's help in halting a launch. South Korea also reportedly urged the United States to hold bilateral talks with Pyongyang to resolve the problem.
China is the North's key ally and is believed able to exert the most influence on Pyongyang.
Source: Comcast.net News
Like S3nd K3ys says, will they launch a missile against the will of the U.S.? Time will tell, I suppose. I really hope nothing comes out of this.