AS WASHINGTON, PYONGYANG WORD WAR ESCALATES

Japan deploys missile system

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TOKYO: Japan deployed its Patriot missile defense system on Saturday after North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles over the country toward the US Pacific territory of Guam, local officials and reports said.

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Regional tensions are mounting as Washington and Pyongyang ratchet up their war of words, with President Donald Trump warning Pyongyang would “truly regret” any hostile action against the US.

Japan has in the past vowed to shoot down North Korean missiles or rockets that threaten to hit its territory.

The defense ministry deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system in Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi in western Japan, which North Korea had warned could be along its missiles’ flight path, public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News said.

PATRIOT Military personnel walk past a PAC-3 surface-to-air missile interceptor deployed at the grounds of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces Kaita base, Hiroshima prefecture on August 12. Japan deployed its Patriot missile defense system after North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles over the country toward the US Pacific territory of Guam, local officials and news reports said. AFP PHOTO

It also deployed the anti-missile system in neighboring Ehime, according to the reports, while the Asahi Shimbun said one maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyer was stationed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to shoot down airborne missiles.

Television footage showed military vehicles carrying launchers and other equipment for the surface-to-air system entering a Japanese base in Kochi before dawn.

Immediate confirmation from the defense ministry was not available but an official at the crisis management office of the Kochi prefectural government said the PAC-3 had been deployed.

“While standing by 24 hours in preparation for a launch, we are calling on our residents to be on alert in case we issue emergency information,” Makoto Ebuchi added.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman, said earlier this week that Tokyo “can never tolerate” provocations from North Korea and the country’s military, will “take necessary measures” to protect itself.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also renewed his pledge Saturday morning to prevent any accidents related to the North’s warned launch.

“I will do my best to secure our people’s lives and property,” Abe said without elaboration.

Japan has deployed the missile interceptors in the past ahead of other North Korean launches but has never actually shot anything down.

In 2009, a North Korean rocket passed over Japanese territory without incident, triggering Japan’s immediate denouncement.

At the time North Korea said it was launching a telecommunications satellite, but Washington, Seoul and Tokyo believed Pyongyang was testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Friday, President Donald Trump urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un not to take any action against the US, its territories including Guam or its allies, warning he would regret such a move – and “regret it fast.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged US President Donald Trump on Saturday to avoid rhetoric that could inflame tensions with North Korea as an escalating war of words raised global alarm.

Xi made the plea in a phone call hours after Trump ramped up his warnings to Pyongyang, saying the Stalinist regime would “truly regret” taking hostile action against the United States.

The White House said in a statement that the two leaders “agreed North Korea must stop provocative and escalatory behavior” and that they are both committed to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

But the Chinese foreign ministry said Xi urged Trump to avoid “words and deeds” that would “exacerbate” the already-tense situation, exercise restraint and seek a political settlement.

AFP

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