Japan Heightens Military Alert for North Korean 'Space Launch'

Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles are deployed at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, April 7, 2012.
Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles are deployed at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, April 7, 2012.

North Korea's plan for a third attempt to propel a satellite into orbit is prompting a military alert in Japan. Authorities there and in other countries say the blast-off, expected by mid-April, would violate U.N. resolutions banning North Korea from utilizing ballistic missile technology.

It is perhaps the highest state of readiness for Japan's military since World War II. The country has deployed naval ships equipped with interceptor missiles and set up missile defenses on offshore islands and even in central Tokyo.

U.S. forces in Japan are on a similar state of alert.

Unnerving situation

On remote Ishigaki island, some residents say the preparations make them nervous.

“I can't believe what a big deal is being made about this missile launch,” said one resident.

It is not an over-reaction, said spokesman Noriyuki Shikata, the deputy cabinet secretary for public relations, at the Japanese prime minister's office.

“The possibility of the launching of ballistic missiles from North Korea is indeed a direct threat for the security of Japan. And it is natural for us to be prepared in close collaboration, especially, with the U.S. military,” said Shikata.

"Preparations by Japan and South Korea to try to intercept the missile if it deviates from its course and flies over their territories have prompted a new threat from Pyongyang. It says any such action would mean war and it would immediately retaliate with military strikes."

“Whoever intercepts our satellite or collects its debris will meet immediate, resolute and merciless punishment,” said a TV announcer for North Korean state TV.

Graphic of projected trajectory of North Korea missile.
Graphic of projected trajectory of North Korea missile.

Attentive monitoring

If the North Korean missile is spotted on a trajectory for Japan, the country will activate the “J-Alert” emergency message system, to immediately inform the public. Shikata said Japan will be prepared for whatever happens.

“Our point is we stay calm. But, at the same time, we remain vigilant against different contingencies,” said Shikata.

Lawmaker Ichiro Aisawa chairs the opposition's foreign affairs committee in parliament.

“If Japan finds itself targeted by a missile attack, that would be an act of aggression and we would have no other choice but to be drawn into the start of a war. But we need to try to keep a cool head and make the right decisions,” said Aisawa.

If the launch proceeds, Japanese officials say they will push for additional U.N. sanctions against North Korea and its new, young leader Kim Jong Un.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: moomooslice
April 10, 2012 8:50 AM
good target practice ! just declare the projectile violates the air space, country under attack ! shoot the sucker outta sky, declare war and remove the cancerous regime once and for all . end of story !

by: NVO
April 09, 2012 3:17 PM
Will the SUPREME BUFFOON be pushing the button for the rocket launch from Hades, or does he want to wait until he is in Gehenna, which will be after the Millennium and after the Great White Throne Judgement. Where is all the FAKE CRYING for the SUPREME BUFFOON now?????????????????

by: the WATCHER
April 09, 2012 1:57 PM
BLOW NORTH KOREA off the face of the world if it PERSIST with its cave men policies. They either shape up OR GET SHAKE UP! A lousy BUNCH they are the RULERS in North Korea, You cross my AIR SPACE and with out a warning to the north i would instantly RAIN DOWN MISSILES on their asses.I hope AMERICA and JAPAN has that mentality towards the THREAT/.

by: ..3.3
April 09, 2012 10:16 AM
poor thing

by: michael wind
April 09, 2012 9:54 AM
japan remembers what they did to korean people...

by: tjlucius
April 09, 2012 9:31 AM
It would be a great opportunity to try our missile intercept capabilities.

by: gt
April 09, 2012 9:15 AM
if it's non - military than fine - can't trust NK though - if it's loaded and destroys anythink - eliminate them

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