A strong typhoon in the western Pacific Ocean headed toward Japan on Tuesday and officials said the storm was likely to strike the country's southernmost island later in the week.

Typhoon Usagi - 31 Jul, 20:46 GMT

Typhoon Usagi, which means "rabbit" in Japanese, was 1,000 kilometres south of Japan and was moving north northwest at 15 kilometres an hour, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

With winds of up to 180 km/h, the centre of the storm was forecast to reach Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu on Friday, hitting the area with strong winds and high waves.

British-based Web site Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com) classified Usagi as a category 2 typhoon and forecast it would strengthen to category 4 by Wednesday and Thursday before fading as it brushed past Japan's main island of Honshu.

The southern island of Kyushu was hit by the powerful Typhoon Man-yi earlier in the month. The storm killed three people and injured more than 70.