The United States will start deploying advanced surface-to-air missile interceptors at the U.S. Kadena Air Base and the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena Ammunition Storage Area in Okinawa in August, Japanese officials said Thursday.

The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors are expected to have preliminary operational capabilities by the end of this year and become fully operational by the end of next March, the officials said.

The decision apparently reflects concerns among Japanese and U.S. policymakers triggered by North Korea’s July 5 test-launches of seven ballistic missiles, which all fell into the Sea of Japan.

The U.S. government told Japan on Wednesday of its decision to deploy the missile interceptors and said the necessary personnel and equipment will be deployed to Okinawa starting next month, the officials said.

Japan welcomes the deployment of the PAC-3 interceptors as a “purely defensive system” that will help maintain the U.S. deterrent power and contribute to the security of Japan, the officials said.

The PAC-3 interceptors will be able to respond to ballistic missiles descending on Okinawa, they said, adding that 24 launchpads are planned.

In an agreement reached between Japan and the United States in May on the realignment of the U.S. military presence, Washington said it would deploy PAC-3 interceptors at U.S. military installations in Japan and make them operational at the earliest possible time.

PAC-3s are designed to intercept ballistic missiles in their final phase, after they re-enter the atmosphere and descend to altitudes of a few dozen kilometers and before they reach their targets.

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