Japan eyes nationwide missile interceptors: Report

Deployment of missile interceptors comes amid heightened regional tensions.

Tokyo: Japan may deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles at air bases nationwide, Kyodo news said on Saturday, as part of a new five-year defence plan to be released later this month.

The Japanese Self-Defence Forces also plan to increase the number of submarines patrolling the seas off Okinawa in southern Japan, where is it locked in a territorial dispute with China.

The move to deploy missile interceptors comes amid heightened regional tensions following North Korea`s deadly artillery shelling of the South last month.

The PAC-3 missile system is designed to shoot down an incoming missile from the ground before it lands. It will be deployed on ships as well as air bases, Kyodo cited government and defence officials as saying.

Japan will announce the National Defence Program Guideline (NDPG) covering the period from fiscal 2011/2012 starting in April laying out defence priorities. It will be the first review in six years and also the first under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government, which swept to power last year.

Kyodo said the new defence policy guidelines also include a plan to increase the number of submarines from 16 to 22 to beef up vigilance on islands around Okinawa.

Vice Defence Minister Jun Azumi said in an interview this week that Japan should improve its defence capability in the southwest where it shares a maritime border with China, adding Beijing`s military build-up has increased regional instability.

"Our attention was on the north during the Cold War. But we have to shift our focus to the defence of southwest ... The most important step to strengthen our defence over the next 10 years is to secure the mobility (of our troops)," Azumi said in the interview.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply after September, when Japan detained a Chinese trawler captain whose boat collided with Japanese patrol ships near a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Bureau Report

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