Patriot missiles may be deployed in Okinawa to counter North Korean rocket

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry is considering deploying the Patriot-3 antiballistic missile defense system on Ishigaki Island and Okinawa Island to possibly shoot down the rocket North Korea says it will launch next month with a satellite onboard, a senior vice minister said Tuesday.

Shu Watanabe revealed the idea during a graduation speech at the Maritime Self-Defense Force cadet school in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture.

The ministry is also considering deploying an Aegis destroyer in the Sea of Japan to defend Tokyo in case the North Korean rocket veers off course, the government sources said.

According to the sources, the Defense Ministry is thinking about deploying some of the Pac-3 system equipment on public land on Ishigaki Island, which is in Okinawa Prefecture, while other parts of the system would be deployed at MSDF facilities on Okinawa Island, including the Chinen base in Nanjo, southern Okinawa.

North Korea has said it will launch the rocket between April 12 and April 16, from 7 a.m. to noon Japan time.

If the rocket travels on the course Pyongyang announced, it would fly over the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The first stage of the rocket would fall into the Yellow Sea off southern South Korea, while the second stage would fall into the Pacific off Luzon, the Philippines, according to Pyongyang.

In 2009, the Defense Ministry deployed the PAC-3 system in Iwate and Akita prefectures to prepare for an expected launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea.