Japan will deploy its Patriot anti-missile defense system in Okinawa and around Tokyo to guard against this month’s planned North Korean rocket launch, the Defense Ministry said.
Ships carrying PAC-3 missile interceptors set out for Okinawa from a naval base in Hiroshima yesterday, Defense Ministry spokesman Takaaki Ohno said. The move follows an order issued by Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto over the weekend, he added.
North Korea said last weekend it will fire a rocket between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22 to put a satellite into space, the same explanation given for an April launch that failed shortly after liftoff. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda yesterday urged North Korea to “exercise self-restraint” and called for close cooperation with the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia to push leader Kim Jong Un to abandon the plan.
The rocket isn’t expected to fly over Japan, which also deployed the missile interceptor system ahead of the April test. The projectile’s first stage should fall in waters about 140 kilometers (87 miles) west of South Korea, and the second should fall in the ocean about 136 kilometers east of the Philippines, South Korea’s Transportation Ministry said yesterday, citing air-traffic notices sent by the North.
Shinsuke Sugiyama, a diplomat in charge of North Korean issues, will go to Washington today to discuss the planned launch with U.S. officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement.
Ohno declined to comment on the exact locations for the deployment of the PAC-3s, which are designed to intercept missiles when they near the ground at the end of their trajectory. Japan also has ship-borne SM-3 interceptors, which are designed to hit ballistic missiles in mid-flight.