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U.S. Military Plane Leaves Japan for North Korea

AP | October 6 2006

TOKYO -- A U.S. military plane capable of detecting radiation has taken off from southern Japan amid concerns over a threatened nuclear test by North Korea, a news report said Thursday.

The plane, which can collect and analyze radioactive substances in the air, took off from the U.S. air base at Kadena on the southern island of Okinawa at about 11 a.m. (0200 GMT) Thursday, Kyodo News agency reported.

Public broadcaster NHK also carried footage of what it said was a U.S. plane taking off from the U.S. air base at Kadena, Okinawa.

The plane is believed to be monitoring signs of a possible nuclear test by North Korea, Kyodo and NHK said. The North threatened Tuesday to conduct a nuclear test to prove it is a nuclear power.

Col. Anne Morris of U.S. Forces Japan refused to confirm the Kyodo report, saying she was not authorized to talk specifically about ongoing operations, but said U.S. forces were on alert for any moves by the North.

"Of course, everybody is being vigilant. But the U.S. position remains that we hope North Korea will allow the situation to be resolved diplomatically," she said.

Japan is home to about 50,000 U.S. troops under a mutual security pact, about half of which are based in Okinawa. The allies will soon deploy advanced Patriot missiles at Kadena designed to intercept tactical ballistic or cruise missiles.

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