TOKYO – The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, examined on Wednesday the anti-missile system deployed in Tokyo for defense against a possible attack by North Korea, during his official visit to Japan before attending the Winter Olympics.
Pence arrived in Japan on Tuesday on an official visit before his scheduled trip to South Korea to attend the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Pence started his official agenda on Wednesday with a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, after which they went on to examine the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-missile defense system, while guided by an official of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
The PAC-3 defense systems remain permanently deployed in Tokyo, along with other similar systems in different parts of the country, besides the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, which cover practically the entire Japanese archipelago against possible missile attacks.
Last year, the Japanese military bolstered its anti-missile shield, which included a record increase in its defense budget, following repeated missile launches by North Korea, including two that flew over Japanese territory before falling into the Pacific Ocean.
The US vice president’s trip to Japan and South Korea comes amid a thaw in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang ahead of the Winter Olympics scheduled to kick off on Friday.
Pence, who is to leave for South Korea on Thursday, seeks to use his presence at the sporting event to warn against Pyongyang’s propaganda and denounce the human rights situation in North Korea, according to sources in Washington.
The opening of the Winter Olympics Games will also be attended by Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, with whom it is speculated that Pence could interact, in line with bilateral meets planned by Seoul with the senior official from Pyongyang.
Pence was also scheduled to hold a series of meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and attend a joint press conference with the Japanese leader.