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By Gerardo R. Partido

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 23) - The news out of Japan and South Korea is that the U.S. military is planning to deploy a new radar system on Guam in response to North Korea’s firing of ballistic missiles last month.

The Kyodo news agency reported that Guam is one of the sites being considered for a new radar system in the western Pacific.

Aside from Guam, the other candidate sites for the new radar system are the Kyushu region and Okinawa Prefecture in Japan as well as South Korea.

The new radar system being planned would be the second mobile X-band radar for an advanced early warning system over ballistic missiles to be deployed after one was installed at the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s Shariki base in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture.

Guam officials, including Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and Sens. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, and Antonio Unpingco, R-Santa Rita, have long lobbied the U.S. to include the island under the U.S. radar and anti-missile protective system.

The concerns grew after North Korea last month test-fired at least six missiles, including a long-range weapon said to be capable of reaching Guam and Alaska.

"The North Korean missile testing is a serious concern to our nation, our allies in the region, and most importantly to our island," Bordallo said. (See related story on page 15)

Guam Homeland Security chief Frank F. Blas Jr. had said that a U.S. "missile shield" protects Guam because the island is host to American military bases and is a territory of the U.S.

But Senator Unpingco, the head of the Legislature’s military committee, and Bordallo want a more specific anti-missile defense plan for Guam.

Local officials have already called for the deployment of a Patriot anti-missile battery on island, to counter possible missile attacks from North Korea.

The planned new radar system could further allay island officials’ fears if it is deployed on Guam.

According to the Seoul Times, the U.S. military wants the new radar system to be located in the southern part of the region to expand the scope of tracking North Korean missiles in combination with the one in the northern part of Japan.

Also to help reinforce the joint missile defense project, the U.S. Navy is scheduled to deploy the Aegis-equipped cruiser Shiloh this month at Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, the Seoul Times reported.

The U.S. Navy has eight destroyers equipped with the most advanced Aegis missile guidance system at Yokosuka, with most of them upgraded to serve missile defense missions.

Aegis destroyers are constantly deployed all along the Pacific, especially the Sea of Japan, with sophisticated missile tracking radar and full ballistic missile defense capability.

These high tech ships carry the newly developed Standard Missile 3 missile system, a counter to short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which intercepts missiles outside of the atmosphere.

August 24, 2006

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