Japan has deployed Patriot missiles in its capital as it readies to defend the 30 million people who live in greater Tokyo from any North Korean attack, officials said Tuesday.
Two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile launchers had been stationed at the defence ministry in Tokyo before dawn, a ministry spokesman said, while Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said "we are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert".
Local reports said PAC-3 will be deployed in another two locations in the greater Tokyo area.
Tokyo's response thus far to the threats emanating from Pyongyang has been low key and Tuesday's moves are the most visible yet that it is rattled.
"The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people's lives and ensure their safety," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Tuesday morning.
"As North Korea keeps making provocative comments, Japan, cooperating with relevant countries, will do what we have to do.
"For the moment, the most important thing is to implement sanctions under the UN Security Council resolutions," Abe said.
PAC-3 batteries will also be installed in the semi-tropical island chain of Okinawa, Onodera told a television programme broadcast Monday.
He said Okinawa was "the place that is most effective in responding to emergencies... so we should deploy the unit in Okinawa on a permanent basis".
Japan's armed forces are authorised to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory, a defence ministry spokesman said Monday.
In addition to the PAC-3s, Aegis destroyers equipped with sea-based interceptor missiles have been deployed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the defence official said.
Tokyo's moves came as North Korea said Monday it was withdrawing all workers and suspending operations at a lucrative joint industrial zone with South Korea, with reports of heightened activity at the North's nuclear test site and at a missile battery.
North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases including in Japan and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.
Intelligence reports suggest Pyongyang has readied two mid-range missiles on mobile launchers on its east coast and plans a test-firing before the April 15 birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
by Michel MROZINSKI Â© 2013 AFP
Date: Apr 9, 2013