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 65.

    No matter how the world washes it's dirty laundry a scum line always appears! So Japan and the rest of us had better be in the mindset of finding even stronger detergents!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    "Japan readies anti-missile defence for N Korea rocket" - the clue is in the headline.

    I think Germany and Japan have reaped the huge rewards of effectively remaining unarmed.

    Its like a policeman wearing a stab-proof vest and people complaining that the police are running around stabbing people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    #58 Japan has been at peace with the rest of the world after the US nuked it into submission, occupied it and forced it to adopt a pacifist constitution. I have no problem with modern Japan but I have a big problem with people rewriting history to make us the bad guy

    #61 Utter lies. Japan withdrew from the league of nations on feb 24 1933 after refusing to withdraw from manchuria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Japan, because of its frankly evil early C20th military record, is reluctant to flex its modern muscles.

    But there comes a time when a peaceful demoratic system needs to stand up for itself against all tinpot bullies like NK. Since WW2 Japan has been a responsible member of the international community. It may be time for it not just to build defences, but take out the NK regime...

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Do you know what forced Japan to violence? In 1800's asians were not even equal humans from the west's point of view. They wanted (yes, im not Japanese) to enter League of Nations but rejected. But when they started their military campaing (and won most of their wars) west started to think they worth some dialogue. Of course im not saying west is responsible for Japan's war crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    The regime is responsible for the state N Korea is in. If they weren't so preoccupied with having a vast army disproportionate to their size and dropped the evil ideology they could have anything they want.

    The US and Japan have a "Treaty of Mutual Cooporation", whereby the US defends Japan in return for Japan having a small army and allowing stationing of US troops. 400 chars..

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    " Peter_Sym
    Learn some history. Japan's in the past 100 years is far worse than the USA's"

    Perhaps but we should take more notice of the 66 of those years for which it has been at peace with the rest of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Can anyone seriously blame the Japanese for standing up their defences? Imagine if N Korea was our neighbour, would we really have shown the patience that Japan has when missiles fired over our country? They are a mad dog regime and its just a race between them, Pakistan and Iran as to who first uses a nuclear weapon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I wonder what China would do if North Korea launched a Rocket over its airspace. Surely North Korea should ask Japan for approval first to launch a rocket over Japan airspace just like any Airline has to which wishes to fly through a neighbours airspace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.


    I must apologise, but I find your ideas ludicrous. NK has 3 main enemies, USA, South Korea and Japan. Just because the USA would be out, they'd still have 2 enemy targets which would be less capable of defending themselves. A nice sunny day would make perfect an opportunity to invade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Japan does not need to invite a thermo-nuclear war-head from North Korea. The Americans have no money to remain in South Korea. Tokyo might suggest that the United States leave the South so that NK could take down their standing and ready missiles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    So what do we expect N. Korea to live in the stone age, have no means to modern technology?
    As for Japan, it's likely under US orders to protect US forces: 5 facilities include US Marine Corps' Camp Foster, Marines' Makiminato Service Area, Marines' Camp Kuwae & port facilities in Naha (US Army).

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    On balace the US hegemony has been positively benign compared to that of the imperial powers of the 19th and early 20th century... perhaps a point for reflection. N Korea seem to have taken one step forward and two steps back in recent weeks

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    44. clive
    The USA is not a democracy in any real sense,
    Errr... we know. Its a republic. It has senators and a president not referendums on everything.

    While North Korea DOES have rights guaranteed by the UN you might also like to remind yourself its STILL at war with South Korea & the Korean war was one of the first actions the UN ever engaged in after N.Korea invaded its neighbour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I think people on these boards may not have read the article correctly, Japan is only putting their defences on alert incase a rocket is shot / launched over is territory or through its airspace just like North Korea did on their previous attempt,

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Please don't think I support Bush or anyone else. That is not the impression I want to give. I'll overlook the remark and not get offended.

    Btw, everyone here knew the Iraq dosser was lies. It was written by Bush and B.Liar; need I say more?

    My point is I believe in treating humans with dignity (i.e not letting them starve), and states that don't are historically untrustworthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    43. m O-O

    I agree N Korea is a dangerous regime. I agree the USA keeps it in check with the threat of "the stick".

    Do think now is the time as we "wag the stick" to proffer a more effective carrot(s)?

    N Korea has a new leader, are in a weak position. Should we push them over the nuclear edge or give them a way out?

    Past rhetoric and diplomatic practice has not worked for many decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Oh do please lets arm those wonderful countries so hostile to the wicked west so that the PC liberal minded pinkos amongst us can all hold hands & skip up the yellowbrick road together. Better yet, why don't they all emigrate to live under these hostile regimes while the rest of us sweat it out in our "flawed" democracies.

  • Comment number 46.

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


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