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Japanese defense minister wants cooperation with U.S. on missile defense

Japanese defense minister wants cooperation with U.S. on missile defense

Japan's defense minister on Wednesday called for the United States and Japan to increase cooperation on missile defense systems to confront North Korea.
Fumio Kyuma said his country is acutely aware of the threat posed by its neighbor, North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan in 1998 and test-fired a series of missiles into the Sea of Japan in July of last year. The North also exploded an underground nuclear device in October, further boosting worries among Japanese.
In March, Japan began deploying its first advanced Patriot missile defense system, which would be used as a last resort if interceptor missiles fired from U.S. or Japanese ships should fail to knock out incoming missiles. Japan plans to deploy about 30 mobile PAC-3 launchers at 10 military bases across the country through 2010.
Japan also will begin introducing Standard Missile-3 interceptors on its destroyers over the next few years.
"Japan finally has a reliable way to engage incoming missiles," Kyuma told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
Kyuma met Monday and Tuesday with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for talks on North Korea, missile defense and a sweeping agreement to realign the 50,000 U.S. forces that have been stationed in Japan since World War II.
Kyuma asked Wednesday for quick implementation of a plan to move a U.S. Marine Corps airstrip from its position next to the bustling city of Ginowan on the Japanese island of Okinawa to a more remote location and to shift 8,000 Marines on the island to Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory, by 2014.