Japan readies anti-missile defence for N Korea rocket

File photo of North Korean rocket launch from April 2009 The last time North Korea launched a rocket-mounted satellite, the UN imposed sanctions

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Japan has ordered missile defence systems to be prepared in response to the planned launch of a North Korean long-range rocket next month, Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka has said.

Reports said the defence systems would be deployed near the island of Okinawa to shoot down the rocket should it threaten Japanese territory.

North Korea says the rocket will put a satellite into orbit.

But the US and its allies believe the launch is a pretext for a missile test.

'Grave provocation'

Pyongyang said last week it was to mark the 100th birthday of its late Great Leader Kim Il-sung with the launch.

The announcement drew widespread criticism that the launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions.


News of this satellite launch - coming just weeks after North Korea had promised the US it would suspend missile tests - has led to a lot of head-scratching in the region.

The announcement was full of assurances that the country would abide by international regulations for space technology, and avoid rocket parts landing in neighbouring countries.

But Pyongyang knows that both the UN and the US take a dim view of "peaceful" launches like this - seeing them as a cover for long-range missile tests, banned under UN Security Council resolutions.

Some see the satellite launch as evidence that parts of the North Korean establishment are less than comfortable with the US deal - under which the Pyongyang suspended uranium enrichment in return for food aid. They want to reassert the country's military strength and political independence.

Others see it as further evidence than Kim Jong-un is playing the same cat-and-mouse game his father was accused of - using provocations to elicit greater bargaining power with the US and others.

And North Korea is also having to bear in mind its domestic audience. 2012 has been billed as a year of celebration - the centenary of its founding president's birth, and the moment North Korea will mark its emergency as a "strong and prosperous nation". The satellite launch may deliver the much-desired image of strength, but it risks losing the American food aid it desperately needs to mimic even minimal prosperity.

The resolutions were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as the last North Korean rocket was launched over the country.

"I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships," Mr Tanaka said.

The Japanese parliament also passed a resolution condemning the launch.

South Korea, China and the US have also expressed concern over the planned launch.

"It would be a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia," the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear envoys from South Korea and Japan held talks in Seoul to work out how they would respond if the launch were to go ahead, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun met Pyongyang's ambassador to express Beijing's "worry".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called North Korea's announcement "highly provocative".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said any launch could discourage aid donors.

"Such an act would undermine recent positive diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside the country," he said in a speech in Singapore.

Satellite view of North Korean missile launch site at Musudan-Ri (file photo from 2009/Digital Globe) North Korea used its launch site at Musudan-Ri for the 2009 rocket launch
'Peaceful purposes'

Last month, Pyongyang agreed to suspend long-range missile tests as part of a deal for the United States to supply 240,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea.

It also agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and to allow back UN weapons inspectors as part of the deal.

A US state department spokesperson said it would be "hard to imagine" giving food aid to North Korea, as previously agreed, if Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch.

In the launch three years ago, Pyongyang said the satellite made it into orbit and characterised it as a test of its satellite technology.

The move drew condemnation from the US and South Korea and led to the UN resolutions prohibiting the North from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Foreign officials said there were no indications that a satellite had reached space and that the launch was a cover for Pyongyang to test long-range missile technology.

North Korea said last week that the launch of a rocket carrying a satellite would take place between 12 and 16 April.

The ''working satellite'', the Kwangmyongsong-3, is an opportunity for ''putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage'', said a North Korean spokesman.

The rocket would be launched from the Solace Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongyang province on the country's west coast.

State media also reported that the North has already launched two experimental satellites.

Graphic showing North Korea missile ranges

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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    #21 sam - "although fortunately Japan is far less trigger happy than places like Israel \ America "

    Looks like someone needs a history lesson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    N Korea is posturing saying they will suspend their launch. Japan is also saying they will have a missile shield (frequently shown to be impractical).

    N Korean people are fed old "Axis of Evil" speeches by G W Bush on TV.

    Constructive diplomacy and not the digestion of other "dodgy dossiers" must be the way to go.

    Engage, help and educate. It is the best way to make friends and not enemies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    As long as the N. Korean milk bottle does not fall over we will be alright.
    Ah so desu ka !

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It seems bizarre to me that certain countries around the world get external aid such as India, Pakistan, North Korea, yet in return they have Space programs, Nuclear weapons, or are just openly hostile to the countries providing the aid. As soon as the country either threatens us or shows it has cash to shoot rockets instead of feeding it's own people, the cash flow should stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It really is a toss up between whether North Korea or Iran will cause WW3 at the moment........although fortunately Japan is far less trigger happy than places like Israel \ America so on this occasion I don't see a major situation occurring......hopefully......

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Are you paying attention those that would not at least keep Trident up to date!

    Would you have a world where Korea had better weapons than us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.


    An exaggerated picture of America. The USA, for all their faults, are a far better model for humanity than N Korea will ever be. They are ignorant and far too gung-ho, yes, but where would you rather live? What system would you rather see over the world? Certainly not that in N Korea or Iran or anwhere else like that.

    And N Korea IS a big threat to it's neighbours (our allies).

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    marcusaurelias 11.

    I think, I write, hence the objective eloquence of my opinion which is not sullied by western propaganda.

    N Korea have made efforts. Their way is to posture give with one hand and take away with the other. The Cold War approach.

    Now, during a regime change, use this lever to bring about a successful exit to 0.3 of the "axis of evil". All N Korean people aren't evil!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Japan is quite right.

    It is a credit to them that they have resisted the temptation to pursue their own nuclear deterrent....although they very easily could.

    North Korea continues its strange agenda as its people suffer under the most repressive regime in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Its frightening that some of you have the vote! It appears to be "perfectly reasonable" for North Korea (which let 1 million of its own people starve) to lob a 'satellite' (which may or may not be a nuke) over Japan but outrageous for Japan to put its DEFENCES on alert. You do know North Korea used to raid Japan and take Japanese citizens hostage don't you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I don't blame them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    North Korea is a small poor country that is no real threat to anyone, The USA is a decadent violent unequal society that inflicts violence all over the world. The USA acts with impunity because it has more and bigger weapons and more money than other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    All innocent human beings (and all other living things) have to accept that at some point there will be the use of nuclear weapons by a nation and that the nation will probably be led by a 'nutter'. This could be against Israel by Iran, India or Pakistan by each other, South Korea by North Korea or some other nation we have not even considered a risk yet.
    Innocents die because of crazy leaders!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "The UK should start launching satellites and not depend on America."

    Eh? ESA through Arianspace launches more commercial satellites than the US and the UK chooses which launch vehicle is the most suitable for the satellite in question be it European or American.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Re: 3. schoolies
    That would be because diplomacy requires both sides to compromise. North Korea just does what it wants whatever anyone else says. Sure, the West is not virgin-white, but due to there political climate they at least have to consider public opinion both at home an abroad. North Korea do not.

    Think before you write !

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    North Korea is one of the worst places in the world to live. Just look at the small number of N Koreans who have escaped to the South. They have to spend MONTHS being educated in how to live a normal, free life.

    The N Korean regime is evil. They may not be a threat to us personally, but morally we must pressurise them,a nd help our allies. Our stance may be hippocritical, but it is justified.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I believe that we all need to take precautions when issues like this arise. I believe Japan is simply activating their defence systems in case the rocket enters its airspace. I would expect the same from the UK!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    5. clive
    Good luck to the North Koreans - why is it wrong for them to have a space capabaility but not the USA?
    Because the North Koreans are Nutters. Mind you, some would say so are the Americans !

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    #5 Unlike North Korea the US can feed all its own people before it started developing a 'satellite program'. If you're foolish enough to believe it IS a satellite and not a dummy warhead what do you suggest this satellite is for? Broadcasting TV to a nation that provides its citizens with radios fixed to only receive the one state channel?

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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