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U.S. mulls deploying antimissile cruiser near Japan soon+
[June 25, 2006]

U.S. mulls deploying antimissile cruiser near Japan soon+


(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) WASHINGTON, June 25_(Kyodo) _ The United States is considering deploying the Navy's Aegis cruiser Shiloh, which is equipped with an advanced missile defense system, to areas around Japan as part of efforts to deal with North Korea's preparations to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile, U.S. government sources said Sunday.

The deployment would move up the U.S. government's original schedule of stationing the Shiloh in Japan at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in August.

Japan has already mobilized an Aegis-equipped destroyer of the Maritime Self-Defense Force amid growing worries about North Korea's preparations to test fire a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.


The Shiloh would be deployed in two weeks at the earliest, the sources said.

In an interceptor test last Thursday off Hawaii, a Standard Missile-3 interceptor fired by the Shiloh successfully shot down a warhead separated from a ballistic missile outside the earth's atmosphere.

The MSDF's Aegis destroyer Kirishima took part in the test, performing long-range surveillance and tracking exercises together with another U.S. Aegis destroyer.

U.S. officials said the scheduled test, the eighth of its kind, was unrelated to North Korea's preparations to test-fire the missile, but it came amid reports that the United States has moved its ground-based missile defense system from the test to the operational mode, and is considering trying to intercept the North Korean missile.

U.S. President George W. Bush will make a final decision on the early deployment of the Shiloh and on whether to intercept the Taepodong-2, the sources said.

Japan and the United States are jointly developing an upgraded version of the SM-3 interceptor to make it capable of shooting down long-range intercontinental missiles.

The joint project began after North Korea launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, part of which flew over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. Pyongyang agreed on a missile-test moratorium a year later in 1999 -- a commitment it has upheld to date although it maintains the 1998 launch was a satellite-delivering multistage rocket.

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