Thursday, July 20, 2006

US Plans Missile Interceptors At Japan Base

Japan says the United States will start deploying missile interceptors at a key air force base in Japan. Japanese Foreign Ministry officials say its part of efforts to deal with the threat of North Korea's missile arsenal. The ministry says the US military will install surface-to-air interceptors at its Kadena Air Base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa from September. It plans to make them partly operational by the end of the year. The deployment at Kadena, the largest US air base in the Asia-Pacific region, will be the first at a US facility in Japan.Japan says the timing of the deployment, soon after Pyongyang's test-firing of seven missiles on July 5, is a coincidence. The interceptors are designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles at their terminal phase, shortly before they reach their targets, by firing interceptor missiles at them. Japan plans to launch a satellite in September that will spy on neighbouring North Korea. It is believed the information-gathering satellite will be able to differentiate objects a metre or more in diameter. An official at Japan's Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Centre says it will be launched from southern Japan on September 10. Japan planned its spy satellite program following North Korea's 1998 launch of a ballistic missile that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.