Japan deploys missile defence to northern island of Hokkaido


Passersby walk in front of a TV screen reporting news about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo.
Passersby walk in front of a TV screen reporting news about North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Tuesday (Sept 19) deployed an additional missile defence system on its northern island of Hokkaido, days after North Korea launched a missile over the island, sparking emergency warnings to take cover.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Japan will deploy a PAC-3 unit to a base of the nation's Ground Self-Defense Force in the southern tip of Hokkaido as part of measures to prepare for emergencies.

The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system arrived at the base later on Tuesday, a local defence official told AFP.

The move came with tensions on the Korean peninsula at fever-pitch after Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test and fired two missiles over Japan in the space of less than a month.

North Korea "may take further provocative actions including launching ballistic missiles that would fly over Japan again in the future", Onodera said, adding that his ministry "would take appropriate measures to protect people's safety".

According to local officials, Japan has already deployed the PAC-3 system to another part of Hokkaido.

But defence officials declined to confirm where in Japan other systems were deployed, citing the sensitive nature of defence information.

North Korea has threatened to "sink" Japan into the sea and said Saturday it sought military "equilibrium" with arch-enemy the United States by developing a full nuclear arsenal.

Hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would "never tolerate" the North's "dangerous provocative action" and has urged the international community to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council, which condemned the launch as "highly provocative," will hold a new ministerial-level meeting on Thursday on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, focused on enforcing sanctions on the North Korean regime.