Missile-defense units arrive on Japan’s westernmost island ahead of North Korean launch
Stars and Stripes April 24, 2023
Equipment and personnel arrived Sunday at Yonaguni, Japan’s westernmost inhabited island, a day after the country’s defense minister ordered the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, missile-defense system to be deployed there.
The move follows North Korea’s announcement Wednesday of its final preparations to launch a “military surveillance satellite,” according to a Japan Defense Ministry statement on Saturday. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has issued an order to launch multiple satellites once the preparations are finished, the statement said. A launch date has not been specified.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the Air Self-Defense Force to prepare for the possibility of a ballistic missile flying over Japan, and the Maritime Self-Defense Force to deploy destroyers equipped with SM-3 missiles. The Standard Missile 3 is used by Japan and the United States as part of the Aegis system to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, according to Raytheon, its U.S. manufacturer.
An Air Self-Defense Force C-2 transport aircraft arrived at Yonaguni Airport on Sunday with the PAC-3 launcher units, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that day. The island is about 70 miles east of Taiwan.
Additional units will be deployed at Ishigaki Island and Miyako Island, the report said.
A Joint Staff spokesman, citing “security reasons,” declined to comment Monday on details of the missile deployments.
The PAC-3 units were temporarily deployed at Ishigaki and Miyako in December 2012 and February 2016 when North Korea launched multiple missiles that passed over Okinawa, according to the Ministry of Defense website. At the time, North Korea said it was launching satellites.
Multiple PAC-3 units have been permanently deployed on Okinawa since April 2013. The PAC-3 missile has a range of just over 18 miles and is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
A spokeswoman for Okinawa prefecture said its “requested a quick and appropriate information release to the government to not worry or affect the lives of the citizens.”
Some government officials in Japan are required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.