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Japan Agrees to Deployment of Missiles
Associated Press  |  June 26, 2006
TOKYO - Japan and the United States have agreed to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles on U.S. bases in Japan for the first time, officials said Monday.

The agreement earlier this month came amid concerns that North Korea may be about to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile.

The U.S. plans to deploy the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles - designed to intercept ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or aircraft - as soon as possible, a Japanese Defense Agency spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with agency policy, said the sites and timing for the deployment have not yet been decided.

The plan was first reported Monday in Japan's largest newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. It said the U.S. military would deploy three or four batteries of the surface-to-air missiles on the southern island of Okinawa by the end of the year and send 500-600 additional U.S. troops there.

Up to 16 missiles can fit in a single PAC-3 battery, according to the system's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp.

The plan was proposed by U.S. officials during a June 17 meeting in Hawaii, the newspaper said.

Japan and the U.S. signed an agreement in 2005 allowing Japan to produce PAC-3 missiles for deployment during fiscal 2006 at Japanese bases. But the deployment plans for Okinawa are apparently separate from that deal.

Recent intelligence reports indicate North Korea may be preparing to test-fire a Taepodong-2 missile within days and is fueling the missile at a launch site on the country's northeastern coast.

The concerns have prompted the U.S. to move up its planned test of a missile-detecting radar system in northern Japan, Kyodo News agency reported, citing an unidentified U.S. official in Washington.

A test run of the 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, in charge of U.S. military bases in Japan, said the report could not be immediately confirmed.

The so-called 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, in the country's north. Tsugaru is 360 miles northeast of Tokyo.

The radar deployment is part of the joint missile defense project, which began after North Korea fired a missile, part of which flew over Japan, in 1998.

Tokyo and Washington on Friday also signed an agreement to expand their cooperation on a joint ballistic missile defense shield, committing themselves to joint production of interceptor missiles.

The agreement had been previously negotiated and was not triggered by emerging fears of a possible North Korean missile test, officials said.

There has been speculation that the U.S. could try to intercept the missile if it is fired.

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