YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Pref. — A disarmament think tank on Friday suggested that Yokosuka is a pivotal U.S. base for Tomahawk cruise missiles, backing its claim with documents showing that a U.S. destroyer received and transferred hundreds of the high-tech missiles here between 1991 and 1997.
Peace Depot, a nongovernmental organization based in Yokohama, based its assertions on information it obtained from the U.S. government showing the ammunition transactions by the destroyer Fife, which fired the largest number of Tomahawk missiles during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Yokosuka was Fife’s home port between 1988 and 1998.
The group checked Fife’s deck logs and found that the destroyer received and transferred 595 Tomahawk missiles in and around the Yokosuka base. In all, the destroyer dealt with 628 Tomahawk missiles in the 70 months between 1991 and 1997.
Hiromichi Umebayashi, the director of Peace Depot, said there are currently six ships equipped with Tomahawk launchers deployed at Yokosuka, all of which have more launchers than the Fife, meaning 1,000 Tomahawk missiles might be transferred each year around Yokosuka.
Masashi Shimakawa, an expert on Japan-U.S. security affairs who teaches at Rikkyo Jogakuin Junior College, said that the documents support what had been widely suspected.
“The fact that many Tomahawk missiles are loaded in Yokosuka shows that the U.S. forces are deployed in Japan not only for the security of Japan and stability in East Asia, as stipulated by the U.S.-Japan security pact, but rather to support the global military strategy of the U.S.,” he said.
U.S. combat ships based in Yokosuka took an active role during the Gulf War as Tomahawk missile launchers. But where those missiles were loaded has remained a secret.
The Fife was responsible for 60 of the total 288 Tomahawk missiles fired during the Gulf War, the U.S. Navy said.
“We are of course against North Korea’s missile programs,” Umebayashi said. “But when there are a bunch of Tomahawk missiles, which have almost the same range as (Pyongyang’s) Nodong (ballistic) missiles, stored in Yokosuka, it would not make a fair argument just to talk about the missile threat from North Korea.”