Photo/IllutrationThe surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) is deployed at the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Kochi base in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, on Aug. 12. (Takaharu Yagi)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Japan has begun deploying surface-to-air missile systems at four locations in western regions amid heightened fears over the standoff between North Korea and the United States.

The first Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) system was installed at the Ground Self-Defense Force Kochi base in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, on Aug. 12 with the aim of intercepting North Korean missiles that stray into Japanese territory from the intended target, Guam.

Anti-missile systems will also be deployed at three other GSDF bases in western Japan after Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ordered a higher alert status Aug. 11.

The scheduled deployment at the Izumo base in Shimane Prefecture, the Kaitaichi base in Hiroshima Prefecture and the Matsuyama base in Ehime Prefecture were expected to be completed Aug. 12.

In the escalating war of words with the United States, North Korea has threatened to launch four missiles over Japan to waters around Guam, where a key U.S. military base is located.

The PAC-3 deployment is designed to prepare for a contingency if any North Korean missiles malfunction and come down over Japan for technological or other reasons.

“North Korea says it will target Guam, but it is possible that the missiles will fail to follow their programmed trajectories due to an error,” a government official said.

The GSDF bases in those prefectures were selected because the North Korean missiles are expected to fly over them to reach Guam.

The PAC-3, with a range of 20 kilometers, will not be launched if the North Korean missiles fly normally.