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US planes thought to monitor nuke test

Date Posted: 2006-10-13

Military reconnaissance aircraft have been in the air near Korean airspace the past few days, reportedly keeping watch over North Korea’s underground nuclear test activity.

The planes, capable of detecting and analyzing an array of substances, including radioactivity, have been operating from Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base. Sources tell Japan Update a plane, believed to be a RC-135, did fly from the base to monitor North Korean activities. A U.S. Forces Japan spokesperson, Colonel Anne Morris, refused to confirm the reports, citing a policy against discussing ongoing military operations.

An aerial refueling tanker is reported to have left Kadena about the same time. Tankers provide reconnaissance aircraft with an ability to remain in an orbital observation position for dozens of hours.
Observers say Kadena has been used as a launch base in the past for aircraft tasked with keeping an eye on North Korean activities. In this case, the Defense Agency denied knowledge of such a mission.

The North Korean nuclear test comes at a time when the American military is in the process of deploying PAC-3 Patriot missiles onto Okinawa. The missiles are designed to detect and intercept tactical ballistic missiles, such as could be launched from a nearby country.

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