Japan orders military to prepare for North Korean rocket launch

Japan orders military to prepare for North Korean rocket launch

Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka Tuesday ordered the military to prepare for a possible operation to destroy a North Korean rocket if it passes through the country's airspace, DPA reported.

His order prompted the military to consider where to deploy its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile system ahead of a rocket launch announced by Pyongyang for between April 12 and 16.

Following a meeting of the security council Friday led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, the minister was expected to order the multi-stage rocket shot down if any part of it appeared to be heading for Japanese airspace, including its waters, the government said.

Chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tokyo believed it "necessary to take every possible measure to protect people's lives and property in case North Korea goes ahead" with the launch, Fujimura told a news conference.

Tanaka said he expected to deploy PAC-3 interceptors in the Tokyo metropolitan area as well as islands in southwestern Japan.

The military was planning to deploy three Aegis destroyer ships to the East China Sea near the southern island of Okinawa, as well as in the Sea of Japan, called the East Sea by Koreans, Kyodo reported, citing unnamed defence ministry officials.

North Korea said it planned to launch an observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-3, borne by the Unha-3 rocket, to mark the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

Japan, the United States and other countries have condemned the planned launch, voicing concerns it could be used to test ballistic missile technology in violation of UN resolutions.

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