U.S. looks to counter North Korean missiles

Kyodo

The U.S. Defense Department plans to deploy 15 Aegis destroyers to Japan’s vicinity in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean by 2006 as part of defense activities aimed at countering North Korean missiles, according to department sources.

The Aegis vessels will be equipped with advanced systems capable of intercepting and tracking ballistic missiles, such as North Korea’s Nodong and Taepodong missiles, the sources said.

In the first stage of deployment, two Aegis destroyers will be permanently stationed in the Sea of Japan and three others in Hawaii later this year.

All five will belong to the 7th Fleet, based at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, the sources said.

The Defense Department also plans to deploy three missile cruisers to the area equipped with sea-based Standard Missile 3 interceptors, according to the sources.

With the Aegis system providing advanced aerial defense and the capability to intercept enemy missiles over a long distance and extensive period of time, the destroyers are also expected to contribute by providing data to the U.S. forces’ ground-based missile defense systems.

U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England said in March that the department plans to deploy 11 Aegis destroyers and cruisers, though he did not reveal the dispatch locations.