Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has initiated emergency talks with U.S. commanders in Japan as well as local governments to prepare for shooting down a long-range ballistic missile that North Korea says it plans to launch.
His ministry plans to deploy Aegis destroyers and surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) guided missiles in Okinawa and elsewhere.
It also intends to dispatch a contingent of Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Yonagunijima island, which lies at the western end of the Okinawa island chain.
The SDF was told on March 27 to carry out on-site surveys and negotiate with local governments concerned. The preparations were ordered ahead of separate instructions to "destroy ballistic missiles or other objects" that will soon be issued on the basis of the SDF Law.
It presupposes a two-stage strategy to intercept, as required, the North Korean rocket/missile with an Aegis destroyer and to fire a PAC-3 missile in case the first interception attempt fails.
The preparation order explicitly noted the need for close cooperation with the United States. It envisages making use of the bilateral coordination center at the U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, where Japanese and U.S. defense authorities are jointly engaged in ballistic missile defense.
The Defense Ministry plans to deploy PAC-3 missiles at three locations in the Tokyo metropolitan area and four locations in Okinawa Prefecture. The candidate sites in Okinawa include the Air SDF Naha Air Base in Naha; the ASDF Chinen Sub Base in Nanjo, also on Okinawa's main island; the planned new airport site or Ishigaki Port on Ishigakijima island; and the ASDF Miyakojima Sub Base on Miyakojima island.
It has also been decided, unofficially, to dispatch a GSDF "rescue team," or disaster relief unit, to Yonagunijima island. The team would assist residents if North Korean missile debris lands there, or the missile itself hits the island.
Three Aegis destroyers will patrol waters around Okinawa and other areas.
There have been calls to deploy at least one of the destroyers to the Sea of Japan to help defend Tokyo, or to waters around the expected missile landing zone to the east of the Philippines, according to SDF sources.
North Korea says it plans to launch an Earth observation satellite. However, it is strongly suspected that Pyongyang is really intent on testing the range of a ballistic missile, which would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution and warrant action by Japan to shoot it down.
(This article was written by Nanae Kurashige and Takashi Watanabe.)
- « Prev
- Next »