- Japan says it must shoot down any North Korean missile that threatens its territory
- The US and South Korea say the planned launch violates UN resolutions
- Pyongyang’s satellite will follow Seoul’s rocket launch
TOKYO/SEOUL, May 29 (Reuters) – Japan on Monday put its ballistic missile defenses on alert and vowed to shoot down any projectiles that threaten its territory, after North Korea announced a planned satellite launch from May 31 to June 11.
The nuclear-armed North says it has completed its first military spy satellite and that its leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for launch.
It was the latest step by the North in a string of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.
Tokyo expects North Korea to launch its satellite-carrying rocket 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 involving drones aimed at improving the ability to strike targets in wartime.
“We will take destructive measures against ballistic and other missiles confirmed to land on our territory,” Japan’s defense ministry said in a statement.
Japan will use its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) or Patriot missile PAC-3 to destroy the North Korean missile.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that North Korea’s missile launch was a serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions condemning its nuclear and missile activities.
“We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from launching,” his office said on Twitter, adding that it would cooperate with the US, South Korea and other countries and do everything possible to collect and analyze information from any launch.
South Korea joined Japan in calling on the isolated North to drop its plan, which it described as “illegal”.
“If North Korea presses forward, it will pay the price and suffer,” a spokesman for the South’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The South’s special envoy for peace and security affairs on the peninsula, Kim Gunn, held a three-way phone call with his counterparts from Japan and the United States, the ministry added.
They agreed to work closely together in guiding the international community’s concerted response to Pyongyang’s planned move.
But without serious leverage in Pyongyang, calls by Tokyo and Seoul to halt the launch will have little effect, said Chad O’Carroll, chief executive of the Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.
“Coming amid major US-ROK military exercises and in the wake of South Korea’s own satellite launch, North Korea may view Seoul’s criticism as more hypocritical.”
South Korea’s homegrown space rocket launched a commercial-grade satellite into orbit for the first time on Thursday.
North Korea has made several attempts to launch “Earth observation” satellites, two of which were successfully placed into orbit, the latest in 2016.
In May, its leader Kim inspected a military satellite facility, state news agency KCNA reported.
In April, Japan sent a destroyer to the East China Sea carrying SM-3 interceptors capable of striking targets in space, and land-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to attack warships near the surface, to the Okinawan islands.
“The government recognizes the possibility that the satellite could pass through our country’s border,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular briefing after the North notified the Japanese coast guard.
North Korean state media has criticized plans by Japan, South Korea and the United States to share real-time data on its missile launches, characterizing the trio as discussing “wicked measures” to tighten military cooperation.
Reporting by Hyunsu Yim in Seoul and Nobuhiro Kubo, Elaine Lies, Satoshi Tsukiyama and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Joo-Min Park in Seoul and David Dolan in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birzel and Hugh Lawson
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