The US is considering deploying a missile defense system in the Tokyo area in the wake of North Korea's missile test launches and purported nuclear test earlier this year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported yesterday.
Washington has unofficially informed the Japanese government it is considering putting Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) anti-missile batteries around Yokota Air Base in Tokyo's western suburbs, and around Yokosuka Naval Base south of the capital, the newspaper reported.
The added defenses would cover critical US military installations on the outskirts of one of the world's biggest metropolitan areas amid a flurry of new defenses being rolled out by the US and its regional allies as concerns rise about Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
The newspaper did not give details about when the deployment would come or how many batteries would be involved.
But such a move would be part of a joint US-Japanese effort to deploy PAC-3 missile defense systems around the country, as the two allies look for ways to counter what is seen as a growing threat from North Korea.
The US is also installing similar Patriot batteries at locations in South Korea.
The beefed-up defenses include this summer's deployment of the USS Shiloh, a US Ticonderoga-class cruiser equipped with an advanced missile defense system, at Yokosuka.
Japan plans to introduce Standard Missile-3s (SM-3s) on its own destroyers over the next few years.
Last month, the US military also activated a high-powered radar outpost in northern Japan that will enable it to track ballistic missiles in the region.
The so-called X-Band radar is so powerful it can identify baseball-size objects from thousands of kilometers away, and is designed to differentiate between decoys and real missile warheads.
US military officials have already confirmed that the first batch of equipment for the PAC-3 missiles arrived in Okinawa, where the bulk of US forces in Japan are stationed.
Washington sees the need for more PAC-3 protection in the Tokyo area because of mounting tensions with North Korea, the Nihon Keizai reported.
The Patriots would be used as a last resort if SM-3 interceptors fired from US and Japanese ships fail to knock out incoming missiles, the report said.
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