Japan's new TV tower becomes world's tallest

Japan can boast the world's tallest free-standing television tower as of Tuesday, when the under-construction Tokyo Sky Tree rose to a height of 601 metres (1,971 feet).

The steel structure eclipsed China's 600-metre Canton Tower, which opened in Guangzhou in September - although both are shorter than the world's tallest building, Dubai's 828-metre Burj Khalifa skyscraper.

The Tokyo Sky Tree rose to 601 metres at 1:29 pm (0429 GMT), when workers lifted part of its antenna section into place, said Tobu Railway, the main investor in the 65-billion-yen (790-million-dollar) project.

Already a popular landmark in eastern Tokyo, the broadcast tower is scheduled to reach its top height of 634 metres this month and be completed by the end of the year.

"We are delighted to see the tower become the world number one," said Tobu Railway spokesman Shota Mitsui. "But we still have more work to do, and we will continue enforcing safety first in completing the project."

To keep the structure safe during Japan's frequent earthquakes, the tower boasts a cutting-edge anti-seismic design, including pilings that fan out underground like the branches of a tree.

The tower consists of two parts, an outer steel frame and an inner shaft of reinforced concrete, which can move separately to cancel out their seismic energies - a design idea borrowed from ancient Japanese pagodas.

A year ago, the tower surpassed the current television and radio transmission tower - the 333-metre red-and-white Tokyo Tower, a symbol of Japan's post-war "economic miracle" - as the country's tallest structure.

In early 2012, after Japanese television networks switch entirely to digital transmissions, Tokyo Sky Tree will take over television broadcasts to beam signals across the city's ever-rising skyline.

With two observation decks, the tower aims to attract an average 2.7 million visitors every year, Mitsui said.

He added that some 25 million people a year are expected to use commercial facilities inside the tower compound, including 300 shops and restaurants as well as an aquarium, a planetarium and a dome theatre.

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