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Japan, U.S. Increase Military Activity Near Korean Peninsula - 2003-03-14

Turning now to the tensions on the Korean peninsula, Japan is beefing up its missile defense system amid a possible threat from North Korea, and some of the United States’ top artillery takes part in war games with South Korea. Robert Raffaele has more.

Japanese media reports say the government is considering deploying upgraded Patriot missiles that could intercept North Korean ballistic missiles in the skies above Japan. This comes after news reports claiming the North plans to test-fire a ballistic missile, capable of hitting much of Japan.

The North has test-fired two surface-to-ship missiles in the past three weeks. Japan’s government also reportedly plans to revise laws allowing the military to shoot down incoming missiles without an order from the prime minister.

Yasuo Fakuda, a spokesman for Japan’s Cabinet, says Japan will make a final decision on its course of action, after closely monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson arrived in South Korea for annual joint military exercises. And for the first time since 1993, six F-117A stealth bombers will take part in the war games. Major Mark Hoover is one of the F-117 pilots.

“Foal Eagle exercises is absolutely outstanding for us because we don’t deploy very often. It’s a great exercise with the pilots that are standing here, for our maintenance troops, to fly into South Korea, to work with our Korean counterparts, our allies here, just to fly in different air space.”

North Korea is once again denouncing the U.S. military maneuvers. Pyongyang’s state-run news agency said the United States wants to mount a pre-emptive attack on its nuclear facilities.

Washington has denied the allegations, and wants multi-lateral talks. Last October, North Korea said it planned to restart its nuclear reactor. The tensions escalated two weeks ago, when North Korean fighter jets intercepted a U.S. plane similar to this one.