Japan Deploys Missile-Defense Systems Following North Korea Threat

Patriot batteries would be used to intercept missiles or debris falling on Japanese territory

Patriot missiles were deployed in Konan, Japan, on July 12.
Patriot missiles were deployed in Konan, Japan, on July 12. PHOTO: REUTERS

By Alastair Gale
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 11, 2017 11:53 p.m. ET

TOKYO—Japan set up missile-defense systems Saturday in four western locations to protect surrounding areas from missiles that North Korea has said it may fire over those regions, the Defense Ministry said.

The deployment of Patriot batteries to Hiroshima and three other prefectures follows a threat by North Korea to launch missiles that would fly over the Japanese prefectures before hitting waters near Guam.

The Patriot batteries would be used to intercept missiles or missile debris falling on Japanese territory, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. Japan typically deploys Patriot batteries to sensitive locations during times of increased tension with North Korea.

After North Korea fired a rocket over Japan in 1998, Tokyo invested billions of dollars on missile defense, including land-based Patriot-missile batteries and sea-based Aegis naval destroyers.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP

While the Patriot system is only able to destroy missiles at a relatively close range, the Aegis destroyers might be able to intercept missiles that pass over Japan on North Korea’s declared flight path toward Guam.

If Japan was attacked directly, it would have about 10 minutes to take down a North Korean missile, but the threat of multiple missiles fired simultaneously increases the challenge significantly, experts say.

New national defense guidelines allow Japan to help defend its allies, such as the U.S., during conflicts. But any military action taken when Japan isn’t facing a direct threat would be controversial because of the its pacifist constitution.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Japan would be allowed to hit a missile headed toward Guam if it was judged to be an existential threat to Japan.

Narushige Michishita, an military expert at Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said both Japan and the U.S. would likely hold off on intercepting any North Korean missiles unless they represented an imminent threat to either country’s territory.

A failed interception would be a strategic setback and the U.S. could instead gain intelligence from observing the full flight of a North Korean missile and potentially recovering missile debris, he said.

Japan and the U.S. are currently working together on a new type of missile-defense system. known as Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, to shoot down medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Japan’s ruling party is also discussing investing in additional military hardware to defend against North Korean threats, including building up the ability to attack North Korean missile bases.

Write to Alastair Gale at alastair.gale@wsj.com



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One Response to “Japan Deploys Missile-Defense Systems Following North Korea Threat”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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