Japan to put 96,000 troops on Y2K standby

Japan will place 96,000 Self Defense Force (SDF) troops on duty at bases across the nation on the evening of December 31 to deal with any year 2000-related problems, the Defense Agency said here last week.

The SDF troops on duty will include a chemical warfare unit and more than 100 aircraft, warships and other vehicles, said the agency. It did not elaborate on the incidents expected although government officials have told IDG News Service that they plan to carefully watch the Korean peninsula for any signs of movement in North Korea, should that country decide to welcome in the new year with any type of military action.

In the summer of 1998 and with no warning, North Korea launched a rocket which flew over northern Japan and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean setting off a frantic review of the nation's security in Tokyo.

Japan has used SDF troops before to help deal with major incidents, most recently after a nuclear accident in September and previously in the wake of the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake that devastated Kobe in January 1995. The government plans to establish a Y2K Coordination Centre to monitor the situation across the nation over the New Year and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi plans to hold a news conference at 0:50 on January 1 to announce any problems encountered up to that time.

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