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N Korea at crossroads

Japan deploys 2 Aegis destroyers as North Korean ICBM test looms

As Pyongyang's deadline nears for US nuclear talks, Tokyo steps up monitoring

Aegis-equipped vessels can track missiles using radar. (Photo courtesy of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force)

TOKYO -- Japan's Self-Defense Forces will have two Aegis-equipped ships conducting surveillance in the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, anticipating missile tests by North Korea around the new year.

The Japanese government, which made the decision on Friday, is believed to have deployed one such vessel in November. The U.S.-developed Aegis system uses radar to track and intercept missiles.

North Korea has fired 13 ballistic missiles since May. The sanctioned nation also said it conducted two "very important" tests this month, which many experts suspect focused on an engine for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang unilaterally set a year-end deadline for nuclear talks with the U.S., suggesting that it could resume testing of ICBMs.

Japan had deployed one or two Aegis-equipped vessels to monitor the Sea of Japan around the clock starting in summer 2016 as a response to repeated North Korean missile launches. Tokyo relaxed the surveillance in summer 2018 after North Korea halted the tests following a bilateral summit with the U.S.

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