Sun, May 31, 2009
F-22 deployed to Japan amid tensions

KADENA, Japan (Reuters) - The first of 12 high-tech U.S. F-22 fighter jets landed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Saturday, days after North Korea unnerved the region by detonating a nuclear device.

The arrival of the top-of-the line aircraft at Kadena air force base comes after U.S. President Barack Obama reassured Prime Minister Taro Aso in a telephone conversation this week of Washington's commitment to the defence of its Asian ally.

"The deployment underscores the U.S. commitment to Japan as a vital regional partner and signals U.S. resolve to ensure stability and security throughout the Pacific region," the U.S. Air Force said in a statement on Friday.

The aircraft, also known as Raptors, took off from their home base in Langley, Virginia earlier this week, and are set to be deployed in the region for four months. Okinawa plays host to the bulk of the roughly 50,000 U.S. military personnel based in Japan.

North Korea fired a series of short-range missiles following its nuclear test and reports on Saturday said it appeared to be preparing to launch a long-range missile. Anxiety over Pyongyang's intentions has sparked calls for Japan to develop the capability to strike at enemy bases in the event of an imminent attack, despite its pacifist constitution.

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