Japan said Friday it will shoot down a long-range rocket North Korea plans to launch next month if it flies over any part of its territory, the defense minister said.
Speaking at a Tokyo news conference, Naoki Tanaka said he issued the order after warning earlier this week that Japan would take preparatory measures as North Korea plans to launch a missile into orbit in mid-April despite international criticism.
With this destroy (order), we will do everything we can to prepare for a fall of North Korea's rocket, Tanaka told reporters, according to The Telegraph.
The resolution was decided during a meeting of Japan's National Security Council.
In a statement, Japan's defense ministry said it would deploy destroyer ships equipped with Aegis missile systems that are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles mid-air to the Pacific and East China Sea. It also plans to deploy the Patriot, a land-based missile interceptor, in the Okinawa islands, where the rocket is expected to fly over.
The first line of defense will fire at the target from the sea. If the target is missed, the Patriot's batteries will attempt to destroy the rocket before it reaches land, according to the New York Times.
Concerns have arisen that a failed launch or a dysfunctional part of the rocket could cause it to crash over Japan, possibly endangering lives.
Osamu Fujimura, chief cabinet secretary, urged the Japanese public to remain calm and gave assurances the military was preparing just in case, the Guardian reported.
We don't believe anything would fall over Japan's territory, said Fujimura. Please carry out your daily lives and business as usual.
Japan issued a similar order for the first time in 2009 when a North Korean rocket, aimed for orbit, actually did pass over its territory. Japan, however, didn't carry through with its warning that it would intercept and shoot down that rocket.
New satellite imagery from DigitialGlobe reportedly shows the site of North Korea's launch pad. An analysis published by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on its website said activity has been ongoing at the site since last week, the BBC reported.
Pyongyang said it will launch the satellite between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim II Sung, the founder of the Communist state.
Both Japan and the United States have accused North Korea of concealing its real intent -- striving to test the abilities of its long-range missiles -- a violation of international agreements.
The United States has already canceled a food air program for North Korea established last month, in exchange for Pyongyang agreeing to suspend its nuclear testing program.
Before Japan issued its order, Seoul also said it would attempt to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it heads for South Korea.
Chinese officials, meanwhile, have urged restraint by all parties ahead of North Korea's planned rocket launch.
All parties should keep calm and exercise restraint, and refrain from actions that would complicate the issue, said Hong Lei, the foreign ministry spokesman, in China Daily.