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Patriot missiles headed for Kadena

Date Posted: 2006-07-28

Advanced surface-to-air Patriot missiles will be installed at Kadena Air Base and at the Kadena Ammunition Storage Area beginning in August.

The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles are being assigned to Okinawa from Fort Bliss Army Base in Texas. The deployment is part of a forces realignment deal worked out between the U.S. and Japan last May. Twenty-four missile launches are expected to be installed at the bases to protect them from airborne attacks.

U.S. and Japanese officials confirmed the deployments a few days ago, but new reports are suggesting that some of the missiles will be posted at Camp Hansen, a Marine Corps base on the northern reaches of the island. Officials are calling the missile systems a “purely defensive system” that will support deterrent and security requirements of the two countries.

The missiles are expected to be under operational control of the Army’s Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii, with the local 10th Area Support Group at Torii Station handling routine administrative chores. An estimated 600 soldiers will be assigned to Okinawa to take care of the missile systems. PAC-3 missiles are designed to intercept ballistic missiles in closing minutes of their flight, as they approach their targets after re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.

Director General Tsutomu Sato of the Naha Defense Facilities Administrative Bureau says “We cannot completely deny it, but in the case of Okinawa, it will possibly fall into the ocean,” referring to the missiles intercepting the targets destined for Okinawa.

The missiles are expected to become fully operational by March 2007, although a senior Japanese official says they could be in service before the end of the year.. Political observers say the final deployment decisions may have been influenced by the 4th of July launches of seven missiles by North Korea. The missiles all fell into the Sea of Japan.

Reaction to the deployment has been hostile on Okinawa. Iwao Kitahara, the Defense Facilities Administration Agency chief on Okinawa, was heckled by demonstrators and jossled by reporters outside the Prefecture Governor’s office. “Kitahara, go home” was being chanted on loudspeakers, and protesters even tried breaking down the door to a conference room to gain access.

Kitahara assured Okinawa officials the new missile systems will not affect local residents, crops or animals. He also emphasized there would be no live-fire exercises or training with the missiles on Okinawa.

Kadena Town’s mayor wasn’t impressed though, calling the missile deployment an “increase to Okinawa’s burden’. Tokujitsu Miyagi says the systems are not designed to protect Okinawans, but the bases. Governor Keiichi Inamine held a news conference to denounce the deployments, joining Miyagi in charging the PAC-3’s will cause more burdens to those living around the sprawling U.S. Air Base.

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