An anti-missile battery was deployed Tuesday to Hakodate, Hokkaido, placing it near the flight paths of ballistic missiles recently launched by North Korea.
The battery was moved to a Ground Self-Defense Force camp in the city from an Air Self-Defense Force base about 70 km away, apparently because the interceptors only cover a range of roughly several dozen kilometers.
The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air interceptors are designed to shoot down ballistic missiles before they land and are there to back up Japan's sea-based Standard Missile-3 systems if they fail to intercept their targets in outer space.
The Defense Ministry moved PAC-3 batteries to Hiroshima and three other prefectures in western Japan in August after North Korea threatened to launch ballistic missiles over the region toward the U.S. territory of Guam.
Instead, North Korea launched ballistic missiles over Hokkaido on Aug. 29 and last Friday. They flew over the Oshima Peninsula, where Hakodate is located, before landing in the Pacific 1,000 km to 2,000 km off Hokkaido.
North Korea "may launch ballistic missiles that would fly over our nation again in the future," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Tuesday. "To prepare for an emergency, we would like to make every effort possible to protect the people's safety."