Japan has deployed Patriot missiles in its capital as it readies to defend the 30 million people who live in greater Tokyo from any North Korean attack, officials said yesterday.
Two Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launchers were stationed at the defense ministry in Tokyo before dawn, a ministry spokesman said, while Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said “we are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert.”
Local reports said batteries would be deployed in another two locations in the greater Tokyo area.
“The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people’s lives and ensure their safety,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters yesterday morning.
Tokyo’s response thus far to the threats emanating from Pyongyang has been low key and yesterday’s moves are the most visible yet that it is rattled.
PAC-3 batteries will also be installed in the semi-tropical island chain of Okinawa, Onodera told a television program broadcast on Monday.
Japan’s armed forces are authorized to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory, a defense ministry spokesman said Monday.
In addition to the PAC-3s, Aegis destroyers equipped with sea-based interceptor missiles have been deployed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the defense official said.
Tokyo’s moves came as North Korea on Monday said it was withdrawing all workers and suspending operations at a lucrative joint industrial zone with South Korea, with reports of heightened activity at the North’s nuclear test site and at a missile battery.
Intelligence reports suggest Pyongyang has readied two mid-range missiles on mobile launchers on its east coast and plans a test-firing before the birthday of North Korea’s late founding leader Kim Il-sung on Monday.
However, Toshimitsu Shigemura, professor of international relations at Waseda University, said Tokyo’s measures were purely precautionary and it was unlikely that Pyongyang would target Japan
“Government officials know from satellite images that Pyongyang has not mobilized its troops or weapons on the frontline, except that they moved mobile missile launchers to the east coast,” he added.
He said a mistargeted missile that might end up falling uncontrollably toward Japanese territory was most likely what Tokyo was readying for.