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Defense Agency to rotate Aegis ships

Another destroyer equipped with the Aegis air-defense system will probably be dispatched to the Indian Ocean to replace the one currently operating there, Defense Agency officials said Thursday.

The 7,250-ton Kongo is likely to be sent to replace the Kirishima, which was dispatched in December as part of Japan’s efforts to provide logistic support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism, the officials said.

The Kongo could depart from Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, as early as Tuesday, accompanying the 8,150-ton fleet support ship Hamana, the officials said.

The Defense Agency had considered sending a conventional destroyer, to keep as many operational Aegis ships as possible near Japan in light of the possibility of North Korea launching a ballistic missile.

However, the agency apparently decided to send the Aegis-equipped ship to focus on providing support to the antiterrorism operation due to the escalation of war in Iraq.