Japan will increase efforts to establish a missile defense shield in cooperation with Washington as soon as possible, Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga told a Diet panel Thursday.
“We intend to waste no time in establishing an interception system along with a monitoring radar network in cooperation with the United States,” he said.
Japan plans to deploy ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile interceptors by next March and sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors by March 2008 as the pillars of the missile defense shield.
Nukaga made the remark before the House of Representatives Committee on Security after North Korea launched seven missiles Wednesday. During the one-hour meeting, he briefed committee members on the launches and the steps the government will take in response.
On Wednesday, North Korea launched a long-range Taepodong-2 missile believed capable of reaching the United States, along with six shorter-range missiles. All of them crashed into the Sea of Japan near Russia.
Japan and the United States began research on a joint missile defense in 1999 after North Korea test-fired a long-range Taepodong-1 missile the year before.
The missile flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific, sending the Japanese public and politicians into a panic, and fueling greater calls for a missile shield.
Security still tight
Security remained tight Thursday at the nation’s nuclear plants and at facilities related to a pro-Pyongyang Korean residents group in the wake of North Korea’s test-launches the previous day of seven missiles, all of which landed in the Sea of Japan.
U.S. bases also appear to be on high alert, and reconnaissance aircraft have been sent to monitor North Korean missile-related activities.
In Fukui Prefecture, a police team specializing in guarding nuclear-related installations was deployed to keep close watch on 15 reactors.
Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates three nuclear facilities in Fukui, also set up task forces to gather information. The utility usually establishes such teams if an accident occurs.
In Niigata Prefecture, prefectural police mobilized armored vehicles on a road leading to a nuclear plant in the city of Kashiwazaki, while the Japan Coast Guard is keeping close watch on the plant around the clock from the sea.
Police have been deployed to the Tokyo headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan – , as rightwing groups staged protests in front of the building. Police have also been sent to Chongryun’s Osaka headquarters in the event of a rightwing confrontation.
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