Japan readies missiles for North Korea

Japan readies missiles for North Korea

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Japan readies missiles for North Korea

A Japanese soldier stands guard next to an Air Self Defense Patriot system. AFP photo

Japan on March 23 readied its missile defense systems to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threatens the country, as the U.N. chief warned that next month’s launch could jeopardize food aid and China urged restraint.

“I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships,” Japan’s Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters, referring to surface-to-air missiles and destroyers carrying missiles.

North Korea has announced it will launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, a move that the United States, South Korea and other nations see as a pretext for a long-range missile test banned by the U.N. The move by North Korea’s new leadership has set off alarm bells across the region. The Philippines is calling for help from the United States to monitor the rocket, part of which is expected to land off the archipelago.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said any launch could discourage international aid donors and worsen North Korea’s already dire humanitarian situation. “Such an act would undermine recent positive diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside the country,” he said in a speech in Singapore.

Japan’s surface-to-air interceptors would reportedly be deployed on the southern island chain of Okinawa, over which Tokyo believes the projectile may pass. China also urged for calm and restrain. “All parties should keep calm and exercise restraint and refrain from actions that would complicate the issue,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.