TOKYO– Japan on Friday issued the order to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threatens the nation’s territory, the top government official said.
Tokyo has readied surface-to-air missiles in and around Tokyo, as well as in Okinawa, and is putting its armed forces on standby ahead of Pyongyang’s planned missile launch.
It is also deploying Aegis warships in neighboring waters.
Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto has told forces to destroy the projectile or any parts that look set to fall on Japanese territory, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters.
The communist North announced last week a December 10 to 22 window, its second long-range rocket launch this year after a much-hyped but botched attempt in April.
Pyongyang insists it is a peaceful satellite launch, but the international community sees it as a poorly disguised test of ballistic missile technology, which is banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Washington and Seoul have urged Pyongyang to scrap the launch while Tokyo has postponed talks originally planned this week with North Korea.
Once Pyongyang launches the rocket, “the government will swiftly deliver information” to local authorities, as well as to broadcasters and directly through Twitter and other social media, Fujimura said.
“We would like people to carry on as normal because the missile won’t fall towards Japan if all goes as expected,” he added.
Fujimura said Japan was still hoping that North Korea would abandon its plan.
“North Korea’s rocket launch clearly violates UN Security Council resolutions, and also contradicts the UNSC presidential statement issued after the launch in April,” Fujimura said.
“If the launch is forced through, Japan will regard it as extremely deplorable.
“In close cooperation with the United States and South Korea as well as China and Russia, we are making efforts to call on North Korea to refrain from launching,” he said.
UN diplomats inside and outside the Security Council have started consultations behind the scenes on what action to take if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch, Kyodo News reported.
Japan, the United States and South Korea have agreed to demand the UN Security Council boost sanctions on North Korea to levels that match those on Iran, the Asahi Shimbun daily said.
That would include increasing the list of financial institutions, entities and individuals that are subject to asset freezes, it said.