Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan today began deploying its first advanced Patriot missile defence system, part of an effort to accelerate missile defence capabilities following North Korea's missile and nuclear tests last year, officials said.
Two PAC-3 launchers have arrived at the Iruma Self-Defence Forces base in Saitama, just north of Tokyo.
In case of an imminent missile attack, the interceptors could be moved to centre of Tokyo to protect government buildings and other potential targets.
Each launcher can fire up to 16 missiles and has a range of several dozen kilometres.
Japan also plans to introduce Standard Missile-3 or SM-3 missile interceptors on its destroyers. Within three years it will have 30 launchers at 10 sites around the country.
Japan also plans to equip four destroyers with longer-range missiles.
The mobile defensive missile system deployed today near Tokyo would be used as a last resort if SM-3 interceptors, fired from US or Japanese ships, fail to knock out incoming missiles.
In February the United States also deployed several new Patriot missiles in Kadena air base on the southern island of Okinawa, where most of the US’s 50,000 troops in Japan are stationed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has advocated a more assertive foreign policy for Japan since taking office last year and has upgraded the standing of Japan’s defence ministry, which had been abolished at the end of World War Two.