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North Korea missile tests reportedly ending

Activity around North Korea’s missile launch sites is tailing off, calming fears of a ballistic missile test, a Japanese newspaper reported on Monday, citing government sources.
/ Source: Reuters

Activity around North Korea’s missile launch sites is tailing off, calming fears of a ballistic missile test, a Japanese newspaper reported on Monday, citing government sources.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said the Defense Ministry had called back a ship equipped with Aegis radar tracking equipment that was sent when satellite monitoring picked up increased activity around missile and other military bases in North Korea last month.

“The series of moves appear to have been North Korean military training,” the Yomiuri quoted a government source as saying. The paper quoted him as adding that about 70 percent of the activity had ceased.

Tokyo is building up its missile defense systems to counter any threat from the North, which in 1998 fired a missile over Japan and landed in the Pacific.

North Korea, believed to have missiles capable of striking almost anywhere in Asia and parts of the United States, is also believed to have one and possibly many more nuclear weapons in addition to programs to make materials for nuclear warheads.

Japan has decided to move forward to the development stage on a next-generation missile defense system it has been working on with the United States, Kyodo news agency said on Monday.

The decision, which Kyodo said was made under pressure from Washington, is bound to face domestic opposition because it will involve a review of Japan’s ban on weapons exports.

The government will make its final decision within the current financial year, which ends in March 2005, on whether to develop components for the system, Kyodo said.

Japan recently decided to spend about $9.1 billion on an existing U.S.-made missile defense system, Kyodo said. Tokyo has also spent $142 million on the joint research program for the next-generation system, which began in 1999, Kyodo said.