Panetta: US-Japan agree on new missile system

Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left,  smiles with Japan's Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto at the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012.  (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
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TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second missile defense system in Japan.

The exact location of the installation has not yet been determined. It will be in the south, officials said, but not in Okinawa.

Officials stressed that the radar system is aimed at protecting the region against the threat from North Korea missiles and is not directed at China.

The U.S. already has similar early warning radar systems on ships in the Asia-Pacific.

This second Japan-based system will allow ships to spread out and cover other parts of the region.

Panetta said the new system would also be effective in protecting the U.S. homeland from the North Korea threat. He spoke during a press conference in Tokyo with the Japanese defense minister.

While officials insisted the radar system is not aimed at China, the decision is sure to raise the ire of Beijing.

Japan has worked closely with the U.S. for several years on missile defense, and has both land- and sea-based missile launchers.

North Korea's ballistic missiles are considered a threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region because of the risk of conflict erupting on the divided and heavily militarized Korean peninsula, and because of the secretive North's nuclear weapons program.

The long-range rockets it is developing have been test-fired over Japan and could potentially reach the U.S.

The North conducted its latest long-range rocket launch in April, defying a U.N. ban. Pyongyang said the launch was intended to send an observation satellite into space but it drew international condemnation as the rocket technology is similar to that used for ballistic missiles.

The launch was a failure and the rocket disintegrated shortly after takeoff.

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