TOKYO -- In response to North Korea's threat to fire ballistic missiles over Japan toward Guam, the government here has begun preparing to deploy Patriot interceptors in its western regions.
The move to reinforce defenses comes after the North Korean military said it is developing a plan to fire intermediate-range missiles into waters 30km to 40km off the coast of Guam. The official Korean Central News Agency, which reported the plan, named the parts of Japan that these missiles would fly over.
Japan will consider exercising the right to collective self-defense by shooting them down.
"We will consider various factors and take the necessary measures," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Thursday when asked about the possibility of Patriot interceptors being deployed in regions under the missiles' expected path.
The North Korean report mentioned Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures in the western regions of Chugoku and Shikoku. Shimane is the closest to North Korea, lying on the Sea of Japan. Kochi would represent the last big land area before the missiles reach the Pacific Ocean.
Japan's two-tiered missile defense system consists of the sea-based Standard Missile-3, which targets incoming missiles at the peak of their trajectory, and the land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3, which targets them as they fall.
The Air Self-Defense Force now has PAC-3 batteries in about 15 locations across the country, none of them in Chugoku or Shikoku. The ground-transportable interceptors would likely be moved into those regions from nearby ASDF bases.