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Japan announces new missile defence test


HONG KONG (BNS): As North Korea takes steps to restart a key atomic facility and reports raise worry over its autocratic leader Kim Jong-il's health, Japan has announced a fresh ballistic missile defence test. The announcement coincides with the American move to place one of its nuclear powered aircraft carriers at the naval port of Yokosuka from this week, and comes just a few days after Japanese forces successfully tested an advance PAC-3 missile defence system.

Japanese Defence Ministry on Monday said it would hold the ballistic missile defence test in November in cooperation with the United States. The ministry officials said the navy will fire an SM-3 missile to shoot down a dummy ballistic missile over the Pacific near Hawaii. The SM-3 would be fired from the destroyer Chokai, which is being upgraded. Last December, the Japanese navy had carried out a similar test.

The announcement comes even as the US moves to position an aircraft carrier at the Japanese port of Yokosuka from this week, amidst protests from locals. Nuclear powered USS George Washington, with 70 aircraft and crew of 5600, will replace the retiring USS Kitty Hawk, which was a conventionally powered carrier. The local protests are mostly against the fear of a nuclear leak. The Japanese government has welcomed the American move.

Japan's concerns over North Korea's fresh belligerence and leadership uncertainties are also reflected in its aggressive pursuits to build its own ballistic missile defense with American assistance. Last week, Japanese Self Defense Force became the first foreign military to successfully flight test the PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptor at White Sands in New Mexico.

Japanese move comes even as North Korea asked the UN watch dog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to remove the surveillance equipment and seals from the Yongbyon reactor site. Last week North Korea had said it was making thorough preparations to start-up Yongbyon, which was being disabled since last year when it agreed on the proposal for nuclear-disarmament-against-aid.

IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei said, "Some equipment previously removed during the disablement process has been brought back."


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