U.S.: Missile Defense With Japan a Response to 'Long-Standing North Korean Threat'

The Bush administration said Monday that cooperation on missile defense between the United States and Japan was not a response to a specific threat, referring to suspicions that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters, "it is part of a program designed to meet the long-standing North Korean threat."

Tokyo and Washington signed an agreement Friday to expand their cooperation on a joint ballistic missile defense shield, committing themselves to joint production of interceptor missiles.

Officials announced Monday that the two governments have agreed to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles on American bases in Japan for the first time.

The United States and Japan reached an accord on the interceptors this month, Japan's Defense Agency said.