Last week, North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean about 20 minutes after the launch. In response, Japan deployed its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air interceptor unit at Hakodate.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera described the move as a precautionary measure against the growing threat from North Korea, which has recently been restlessly exhibiting its growing military strength.
"[North Korea] may launch ballistic missiles that would fly over our nation again in the future," he told reporters Tuesday, the Japan Times reports. "To prepare for an emergency, we would like to make every effort possible to protect the people's safety."
The PAC-3 system units are designed to shoot down ballistic missiles before they hit a ground target, backing up Japan's sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors on Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan in case they fail to intercept them in the atmosphere. The deployment was apparently necessary due to the PAC-3's range of roughly 20 kilometers.
Last Thursday, North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons to "sink" Japan and reduce the United States to "ashes and darkness" for supporting a UN Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test.