The US military plans to deploy battalions of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Japan's Okinawa prefecture for the first-ever missile drills in the area scheduled for later this year, according to the Sankei Shimbun.
The Japanese newspaper reported that during the drills, the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher systems may fire tactical ballistic missiles with a range of up to 300 kilometres (186 miles) to destroy maritime and ground targets. The deployment of the systems is expected to be conducted by the 1st Corps of the US Army.
The HIMARS drills will reportedly be carried out as part of countermeasures to contain Chinese warships which have frequently sailed through waters near Okinawa, where the majority of US troops in Japan are based. Beijing, in turn, insists that its activities in the area are purely for self-defence.
The reported HIMARS deployment comes amid the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is currently situated in Okinawa's densely populated city of Ginowan, to the Henoko district.
Right now, about 25,000 US troops are stationed on Okinawa. Locals have repeatedly slammed the island's US bases for causing disruption via aircraft and vehicle crashes, environmental damage, and fuelling crime, including rape.