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    Japan Remains on Alert Awaiting N. Korean Launch

    Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles are seen under cherry blossoms at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo, April 12, 2012.
    Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) land-to-air missiles are seen under cherry blossoms at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo, April 12, 2012.

    Japanese authorities are expressing concern while countries in Asia wait for North Korea’s planned rocket launch. As the first day of a five-day launch window passed without incident, Japan’s Prime Minister repeated an appeal for the North to abandon plans to fire a satellite into orbit.

    Monitoring impending launch

    Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his country is monitoring the situation in close cooperation with other countries. He said Japan will respond in a “calm and appropriate way.”

    Noda said a launch by North Korea would be a grave provocation and security threat that affects not only Japan, but also peace and stability in the region. The prime minister added that he will continue urging the North to refrain from proceeding with the launch.

    Authorities in Tokyo see the North Korean satellite launch as a third attempt to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, following similar launches in 2006 and 2009.

    Concerns


    “From our viewpoint, the launching of a missile by North Korea is in violation of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions," Deputy cabinet secretary for public relations Noriyuki Shikata stated,  describing Japan’s concerns about the plan. "This would lead to damaging peace and stability in the region. That’s why we have been trying to make North Korea reach a decision not to do so."

    Japanese Self-Defense Forces have deployed several batteries of missile interceptors in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, ready to shoot down any pieces of the rocket likely to fall on Japanese territory. Shikata said the measure was taken mainly as a precaution.

    “We have been communicating to the public that under normal circumstances we do not expect damages to be incurred in Japan if the missile is launched in accordance with the announcement," he said.

    Shikata added there’s another reason to continue monitoring the situation closely.

    Launches of long-range missiles in 2006 and 2009 were followed by North Korea’s first underground nuclear tests. There are concerns that Pyongyang will again conduct a nuclear test following its satellite launch.




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