Japan puts missile defenses on alert as North Korea warns of satellite launch

  • Japan says it will shoot down any threatening projectiles from North Korea
  • US and South Korea say planned launch violates UN resolutions
  • Pyongyang satellite would follow Seoul rocket launch

TOKYO/SEOUL, May 29 (Reuters) – Japan put its anti-ballistic missile defenses on alert on Monday and vowed to shoot down any missiles threatening its territory, after being notified by North Korea of ​​a planned satellite launch between May 31 and 11th June.

The nuclear-armed North says it has completed its first military spy satellite and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for launch.

It would be the latest step by North Korea in a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including one of a new solid-fueled ICBM.

Tokyo expects North Korea to fire the rocket carrying its satellite over Japan’s southwestern island chain, as it did in 2016, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Analysts say the new satellite is part of a surveillance technology program that includes drones, aimed at improving the ability to strike targets in times of war.

“We will take destructive measures against ballistic and other missiles that are confirmed to land on our territory,” Japan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Japan would use its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) or Patriot Missile PAC-3 to destroy a North Korean missile, he added.

Any North Korean missile launch would be a serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions condemning its nuclear and missile activity, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

“We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from any launches,” his office said on Twitter, adding that it would cooperate with the United States, South Korea and other countries and do everything possible to collect and analyze information from any launches.

A US State Department spokesman said any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology, including one used to put a satellite into orbit, would violate multiple UN resolutions.

The United States urges North Korea to “refrain from further illegal activities and calls on Pyongyang to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” the spokesman said.

Soldiers from the Japanese Self Defense Forces pass forward a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile unit in Tokyo, Japan. /File Photo/REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

South Korea joined in calling on the reclusive North to scrap its plan, which it described as “illegal.”

“If North Korea goes ahead, it will pay the price and suffer,” a spokesman for the South’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Kim Gunn, the South’s special envoy for peninsula peace and security affairs, held a tripartite phone call with his counterparts from Japan and the United States, the ministry added.

They agreed to work closely together to lead a united response by the international community to Pyongyang’s planned move, he said.

But without serious influence on Pyongyang, calls from Tokyo and Seoul to halt the launch will have little effect, said Chad O’Carroll, executive director of the Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.

“In the midst of major US and ROK military exercises and following the launch of South Korea’s own satellite, North Korea is likely to see Seoul’s criticism as extremely hypocritical.”

South Korea’s domestically-made space rocket launched a commercial-grade satellite into orbit for the first time on Thursday.

North Korea has attempted several times to launch “earth observation” satellites, two of which appear to have been successfully launched into orbit, the latest in 2016.

In May, its leader, Kim, inspected a military satellite facility, the state news agency KCNA said.

In April, Japan sent a destroyer carrying SM-3 interceptors that can hit targets in space to the East China Sea, and sent land-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to engage warheads closer to the ground, to the Okinawan Islands.

“The government recognizes that there is a possibility that the satellite will pass through the territory of our country,” Hirokazu Matsuno, the chief cabinet secretary, told a regular briefing after North Korea informed the Japanese coast guard about the plan.

North Korean state media have criticized plans by Japan, South Korea and the United States to share real-time data on their missile launches, characterizing the three as discussing “sinister moves” to bolster military cooperation.

Reporting by Hyunsu Yim in Seoul and Nobuhiro Kubo, Elaine Lies, Satoshi Sugiyama and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul, David Dolan in Tokyo, and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Edited by Robert Birsel, Hugh Lawson, and Chris Reese

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