Japan says it will shoot down N. Korea rocket over territory

Naoki Tanaka, Japan's new defense minister, as pictured at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo in January.

Story highlights

  • North Korea says it plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite next month
  • Other countries say the move is a cover for a ballistic missile test
  • Japan says it will shoot down any part of the rocket that enters its territory

Japan will shoot down any part of the long-range rocket that North Korea plans to launch next month that enters its territory, the Japanese defense minister, Naoki Tanaka, said Friday.

Speaking at a news conference, Tanaka said he had issued the official order after instructing the Japanese military earlier in the week to prepare the country's missile defense shield against the planned rocket launch.

North Korea announced earlier this month that it would launch a rocket carrying a satellite between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Communist state.

Pyongyang says the operation is for "peaceful purposes," but Japan, the United States and South Korea see the launch as a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

Firing the long-range rocket would breach U.N. Security Council resolutions, and Washington has suspended a recent deal to provide food aid to North Korea as a result.

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Japan says its military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, has begun preparations to deploy ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors in the Tokyo metropolitan area, as well as the Okinawa, Ishigaki and Miyako islands.

The defense ministry says three Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors will also be deployed to the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan.

The ministry also says the military will deploy helicopter rescue units in order for the military to respond to any crisis in the event that rocket debris hits Japan.