The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has withdrawn the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) air defence systems that had been deployed at five prefectures across the country since August 2017 to counter the threat posed by North Korean missile launches.
The MoD removed the PAC-3 systems from Hokkaido, Shimane, Hiroshima, Ehime, and Kochi prefectures on 30 July and returned them to their respective Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases, a ministry official told Jane’s on 31 July.
The ministry also withdrew a PAC-3 battery deployed at its Tokyo headquarters in Ichigaya.
Justifying the move, the official said North Korea would be unlikely to fire ballistic missiles as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have eased following the landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on 12 June on Singapore’s Sentosa Island.
The MoD had deployed the PAC-3 systems to four western prefectures in August 2017 after North Korea threatened to launch nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that would fly over Japan and fall near the waters surrounding the US territory of Guam.
The following month, Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido was added to the list after two North Korean Hwaseong-12 (also known as KN-17) intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) flew over the area shortly after being test-fired on 29 August and 15 September.
Tokyo made a similar decision in June 2018 when it agreed to lower the readiness level of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF’s) destroyers from ‘high alert’ to ‘24-hour notice’.
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