Americans deploy nuclear sniffer plane to Okinawa
Japan, US forces prepare for possible North Korean test
TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. are strengthening their guard against North Korea by stationing an American observation aircraft in Okinawa to detect a possible nuclear weapons test by the Kim Jong Un regime, according to a senior Japan Self-Defense Forces official.
The U.S. Air Force's Constant Phoenix WC-135 can detect telltale radioactive debris released into the atmosphere by the detonation of a nuclear device. The aircraft was deployed to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa earlier this month, the official said. Japan's Self-Defense Forces also are increasing their own surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The U.S. has sent a strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the waters off the Korean Peninsula. Japan has also readied ships equipped with the Aegis missile defense system in preparation for a possible North Korean missile launch. Japanese forces have been under shootdown orders since August and are prepared to intercept a missile at any time, the government says.
The allies are closely sharing intelligence about possible North Korean moves ahead of several milestones that could bring new provocations. Saturday marks 105 years since the birth of Kim Il Sung, founder of the communist state, and April 25 will be the 85th anniversary of the Korean People's Army's founding. The North Koreans might attempt a nuclear test or missile launch on those dates.