TOKYO: North Korea on Monday notified Japan of a plan to launch what Tokyo believes is a ballistic missile.
Pyongyang informed Tokyo that it will launch a satellite sometime between midnight Tuesday (3 p.m.) and midnight on June 10.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered relevant units of the Self-Defense Forces to destroy the missile if needed based on the SDF law. The missile or debris from the missile may fall into the Yellow Sea or the East China Sea or in waters east of Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to the Japanese government.
A launch by North Korea of a long-range ballistic missile under the guise of a satellite would be the first since February 2016, when it fired Kwangmyongsong-4.
“Even if North Korea claims that it’s a satellite, a launch by the country using ballistic missile technology will be a violation of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and a serious issue concerning the safety of the (Japanese) public,” Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
“We’ll work fully on collecting related intelligence and be on high alert” while dealing with the matter through close cooperation between Japan and the United States and among the two plus South Korea, he said at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference that the North Korean missile may fly over Nansei islands in southwestern Japan or other parts of Japan. “A launch of a missile (by North Korea) will be a serious provocation to the security of our country,” the top government spokesman added.
The launch plan was notified to the Japan Coast Guard by North Korean authorities related to waterways via email, according to Matsuno.
Kishida ordered government staff to gather and analyze related intelligence and provide information to the public appropriately, work with the United States and South Korea to press North Korea to refrain from the launch, and remain fully prepared to cope with any contingencies.
Japanese ministries and agencies concerned held a meeting of bureau chief-level officials to discuss responses.
In April this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered officials to launch the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite.
Japanese defense chief Hamada on April 22 ordered the SDF to prepare to destroy a North Korean missile in case it falls within Japanese territory.
The Air SDF’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, surface-to-air missile defense system has been deployed in Naha, the capital of the southernmost Japan prefecture of Okinawa, and the Okinawa islands of Miyako, Ishigaki and Yonaguni.
The Maritime SDF’s Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3, or SM-3, interceptors are also currently operating in nearby waters.