Following North Korea's threat on Wednesday to fire ballistic missiles over Japan toward Guam, it was only a matter of time before Japan - which overnight said it has the authority to shoot down any such projectile above its territory - took appropriate steps, and according to the Nikkei, the Japanese government is starting to deploy Patriot missile interceptors in its western regions ahead of a North Korean launch.
The move comes after the North Korean military said it is developing a plan to fire intermediate-range missiles into waters 30km to 40km off the coast of Guam, and elaborated that the rockets would fly over parts of Japan and Patriot batteries would likely be positioned in those parts of Japan mentioned by North Korea. The KCNA report mentioned Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures in the western regions of Chugoku and Shikoku. Shimane is the closest to North Korea, lying on the Sea of Japan. Kochi would represent the last big land area before the missiles reach the Pacific Ocean.
The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan. They will fly 3356.7 km for 1065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 km away from Guam.
According to Nikkei, "Japan will consider exercising the right to collective self-defense by shooting them down."
"We will consider various factors and take the necessary measures," Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Thursday when asked about the possibility of Patriot interceptors being deployed in regions under the missiles' expected path.
As the Nikkei adds, Japan's two-tiered missile defense system consists of the sea-based Standard Missile-3, which targets incoming missiles at the peak of their trajectory, and the land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3, which targets them as they fall.
Currently, Japan's Air Self-Defense Force has PAC-3 batteries in about 15 locations across the country, none of them in Chugoku or Shikoku. The ground-transportable interceptors would likely be moved into those regions from nearby ASDF bases.