The Japan Coast Guard will deploy two large patrol vessels to the Sea of Japan to defend nuclear power plants against terrorism, sources say.
Two new 1,500-ton vessels have helipads and will be deployed between fiscal 2019 and 2020 to the coast guard's Tsuruga office in Fukui Prefecture, which hosts several nuclear plants, sources said Saturday.
Patrol boats of similar size, which cost about ¥6 billion ($54 million) apiece, will be introduced in other parts of the country in the future, they said.
The government is moving to strengthen counterterrorism measures in the run-up to the Olympics in line with an agreement in February with the International Atomic Energy Agency to bolster the nation's capacity to respond to nuclear terrorism.
The coast guard expects the new ships to improve its ability to respond to illegal North Korean fishing boats and unidentified ships sighted off its central coast, the sources said.
The ships could also be used to respond to emergencies at nuclear plants in other areas, and the crews will receive special training in dealing with radioactive substances, they said.
An additional 60 to 80 crew members will be posted at the Tsuruga office, nearly doubling the personnel there.
The Tsuruga office belongs to the 8th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which is responsible for patrolling waters along a 2,000-km stretch of the central and western coasts. That office operates three patrol boats, the largest being the 350-ton Echizen.
To better deal with China's growing maritime assertiveness, Japan has allocated a record ¥211.2 billion to the Japan Coast Guard in its initial budget for fiscal 2018.