Japan installs missile interceptors as N Korea's Guam threat looms
August 12 2017 07:25 PM
Units of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles which are deployed at the compound of the Ja
Units of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles which are deployed at the compound of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's Kochi garrison are seen in Konan, Kochi prefecture, Japan. Reuters

dpa/Washington

US ally Japan has braced itself for a potential strike by North Korea near the US territory of Guam, with the Japanese military installing four surface-to-air missile interceptors in the country's west.

Inflammatory rhetoric between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear programme soared to new heights this week when North Korea announced plans to fire rockets near Guam, a western Pacific island that is home to a US military base and around 160,000 people.

Japan installed four PAC-3 missile interceptors on Saturday in four western prefectures, Kyodo News service reported, after Pyongyang warned that its missiles would cross over Shimane, Hiroshima and
Kochi prefectures before landing in waters off Guam.

Japan "will do its utmost to protect the lives and property of the Japanese people," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters while visiting his father's tomb in Yamaguchi prefecture.

France, another US ally, weighed in on the tensions on Saturday, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling on North Korea to avoid a further "escalation of tensions."

"The international community must act in a coordinated, steadfast and firm manner ... so that North Korea returns to the path of dialogue," a statement from Macron's office said.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported earlier in the day that President Xi Jinping had called on US President Donald Trump to exercise restraint in his war of words with North Korea.

During a telephone conversation with Trump, Xi said concerned parties should "avoid remarks and actions that could escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula," according to Xinhua.

A White House readout of the call said two leaders had agreed that "North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour" and that new UN sanctions on Pyongyang were "an important and necessary step" towards peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

China is one of North Korea's only allies, and Trump has repeatedly criticized Beijing for not exercising more pressure on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear weapons programme, which appears to have accelerated in recent months.

After the call between Xi and Trump, however, the White House said "the relationship between the two presidents is an extremely close one" and that Trump was looking forward to seeing Xi in China later this year for a "historic" meeting.

The White House also said Trump had telephoned Guam Governor Eddie Calvo to reassure him that "United States forces stand ready to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam."

Speaking at at an informal news conference at his golf resort in New Jersey, Trump said Friday that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attacked Guam, "he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast."

Trump has doubled down on his threats against North Korea since vowing "fire and fury" against the reclusive regime on Tuesday, sparking concern among foreign leaders.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that "the risks are very high" that the US and North Korea could go to war, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said an escalation in language was "the wrong response."

North Korea carried out its second intercontinental missile test on July 28, later claiming that it now had the capability to reach all of the US mainland.

In response, the UN imposed its harshest sanctions yet on the reclusive nation. They are expected to cut North Korea's export revenues by one third.



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