By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
TOKYO, June 27 -- The Pentagon is reportedly speeding up plans to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles on U.S. bases in Japan for the first time, a countermeasure seen as a response to the increasing threat of North Korean missiles.
In a May accord signed in Washington, the United States and Japan agreed in principle to put the interceptor system known as PAC-3 on U.S. bases here. But Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported that the Pentagon made a proposal this month to deploy the system in Okinawa by year's end amid concerns that Pyongyang may be preparing to test-fire a long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.
Japan's Defense Agency said the timing of the PAC-3 deployment was still being negotiated, and a Pentagon spokesman said the missiles have not been sent to Japan.
The planned PAC-3 deployment underscores concern that Japan is emerging as the nation most threatened by North Korean missiles. Reports of a possible test-firing of a Taepodong-2 have spurred Japan and the United States to take further steps in a joint effort to construct an effective missile-defense shield.
The U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles are designed to intercept ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or aircraft. But experts said it was unclear whether the PAC-3 system would be capable of shooting down the Taepodong-2.