June 29, 2006

Japan brings warship home on missile fears: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese warship equipped with a
high-tech radar tracking system has been ordered home early
from naval exercises because of fears that North Korea plans to
launch a ballistic missile, Kyodo news agency said on Thursday.

The destroyer Kirishima, one of four Japanese ships that
boasts Aegis tracking equipment, set out for home on Wednesday
from Hawaii, where it had been taking part in U.S.-led
exercises including a missile interception test, Kyodo said.

It had been scheduled to stay in Hawaii for another month,
the report said.

Japan's Defense Agency declined to comment on the report.

U.S. officials have said satellite pictures appear to show
North Korea was preparing to fire a ballistic missile.
Washington and Tokyo have warned of a harsh response in the
event Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch.

Japan has already deployed its other Aegis destroyers in
nearby waters to try to detect and track any possible missile
launch, Kyodo said. The U.S. Navy has also dispatched two Aegis
vessels from the port of Yokosuka.

Neither country at present has any systems in place that
could destroy a ballistic missile heading for Japan, but the
United States plans to deploy the USS Shiloh, equipped with
Aegis and SM-3 interceptor missiles, to Japan from August.