The Japanese government has decided to purchase the Raytheon Patriot ballistic missile defence system and another missile defense system.
The interceptor missiles to be mounted on Aegis-equipped destroyers are called Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), while the state-of-the-art surface-to-air missiles are called Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).
The SM3, still under development by the US Navy, will intercept ballistic missiles at an earlier stage than the Patriot.
The SM3 is a more ambitious system, designed to take out ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase beyond the Earth's atmosphere. SM3s would be deployed on Aegis destroyers reconfigured to accommodate the weapons.
One recent report, while officially disputed, suggests an obvious motive for the Japanese plan to install missile defenses.
Japan's vulnerability to an attack by North Korean missiles may have increased dramatically, with reports yesterday that Pyongyang has developed several nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles.
The United States unofficially told Japan in March that, for the first time, it had confirmation that North Korea had produced the warheads, Japanese media quoted officials as saying.
According to the majority view of U.S. experts, Pyongyang already has downsized nuclear warheads to about 1 ton each--small enough to be carried by the North's Rodong medium-range ballistic missile and almost one-fifth the size of the 4.9 ton Fat Man plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
The US government has been urging the Japanese government to deploy missile defenses for quite some time and the Japanese government has been dropping hints that it would do so. Therefore this latest announcement is unsurprising. Japan may also eventually deploy the US Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) which is currently under development and may be ready for a 2007 roll-out. These plans should be seen as part of a wider pattern of cooperation between the United States and Japan in response to the increasing threat posed by North Korea. Another sign of the deepening of that cooperation are the recently reported plans to move a major US Navy intelligence headquarters from Hawaii to Japan.
The US navy is considering relocating the Pacific Fleet's patrol and reconnaissance headquarters from Hawaii to Japan by the autumn, a news
Nuclear tipped missiles from North Korea are not the only national security threat worrying the Japanese. While likely a lesser concern a recent report of an attempt by Al Qaeda to build up cells in Japan must be causing some alarm in Japanese national security circles.
Six members of the Al-Qaida terrorist network hiding out in Pakistan, planned last year to enter Japan secretly, government sources said Thursday.
Although they had fake passports, the plan failed because a Japanese Muslim, who was asked to be their guarantor, refused, the sources said.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 June 22 04:17 AM Korea|