updated 10/29/2006 2:29:40 AM ET 2006-10-29T07:29:40

The U.S. is considering deploying its advanced Patriot missile defense system near Tokyo after North Korea’s recent missile and nuclear tests, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Washington unofficially informed the Japanese government it is considering putting Patriot Advanced Capability 3 surface-to-air interceptor missiles around Yokota Air Base in Tokyo’s western suburbs and around Yokosuka Naval Base, south of the capital, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported without saying how it got the information.

The added defenses would cover critical U.S. military installations on the outskirts of Tokyo.

The move would be part of a previously announced U.S.-Japanese effort to deploy PAC-3 missile defense systems around the country as the two allies look for ways to counter what is seen as a growing threat from neighboring North Korea.

North Korea alarmed the region in July by test firing several missiles, including a long-range model believed capable of striking the western U.S. Earlier this month, the isolated communist country sparked global outrage by its first-ever test of a nuclear bomb.

Analysts doubt North Korea’s ability to accurately deliver atomic weapons atop its missiles. But after the missile test, the U.S. and Japan announced plans to deploy the Patriots, which are designed to destroy ballistic or cruise missiles and aircraft.

U.S. military officials have already confirmed that the first batch of equipment for the PAC-3 missiles arrived in Okinawa in southern Japan, where the bulk of U.S. forces in the nation are stationed.

The Patriots would be used as a last resort if Standard Missile-3 interceptors fired from U.S. and Japanese ships fail to knock out incoming missiles, the report said.

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