Japan has deployed advanced Patriot missile launchers at an air base near Tokyo to bolster the ballistic missile defense shield for the nation's capital, officials said yesterday.
Two PAC-3 launchers were deployed at the Self Defense Forces' Narashino base, just east of Tokyo, according to a Defense Ministry official. She refused to say whether missiles have been deployed with the launchers, saying that this was classified.
This is a second deployment of the PAC-3 defense system in the Tokyo area. The first was set up at Iruma base in March. There are two launchers there as well, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Japan, concerned by the threat of North Korea, plans to deploy the PAC-3 defense system at nine more bases by March 2011.
The deployment comes as Japan is rapidly beefing up its defenses.
The ministry is reportedly planning to conduct anti-ballistic missile drills in the Tokyo area beginning next month, setting up PAC-3 systems at about 10 locations throughout the city.
The drills are aimed at testing the locations to see if there are any communications obstacles in the surrounding areas and determine the best sites for future deployment, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The ministry plans to conduct similar drills in the central, western and southwestern regions later, the Yomiuri said.
Officials at the Defense Ministry confirmed that they intend to conduct drills, but refused to give any details.
The Patriot missiles would be used as a last resort if interceptors fired from US or Japanese ships fail to knock out incoming missiles.