Japan on alert to intercept NK rocket

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By Sanjay
Date  02 April 2012
Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka  ordered missile units to intercept a rocket carrying a North Korean satellite that Pyongyang plans to launch next month if it poses a direct threat to Japan.
 
The order followed instructions issued earlier in the week for the military to prepare to intercept the rocket if it enters Japanese territory.
 
The satellite launch is due to take place between April 12-16 to mark the centennial of the birth of North Korea`s founder Kim Il-sung.
 
Japan`s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura on Friday urged people to stay calm, saying the military is preparing "just in case."
 
"We don`t believe anything would fall over Japan`s territory. Please carry out your daily lives and business as usual," he said.
 
Pyongyang said it had informed the International Maritime Organization of the anticipated drop zones of the first and second stages of the Unha-3 rocket, respectively off the western coast of South Korea and to the east of Luzon Island in the Philippines.

However, the plan has raised concerns from Japan that a failed launch, or a falling stage of the rocket, could endanger Japanese lives or property.
 
Seoul has also warned it might shoot down any parts of the North Korean rocket heading for South Korean territory.
 
Tao Wenzhao, an analyst with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Tokyo and Seoul`s reactions reflect their concerns over the satellite launch, which they believe aims to test the capabilities of North Korea`s long-range missiles. But Tao noted that the two countries may also have been overstating their concerns about the launch.
 
Shen Dingli, executive dean of Fudan University`s Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that Japan and South Korea should take their concerns to the UN Security Council rather than resorting to military means, such as shooting down the rocket.
 
Shen also noted that Pyongyang`s planned satellite launch may push Tokyo and Seoul to embrace the idea of setting up a regional anti-missile shield in Asia proposed by Washington.
 
Madelyn Creedon, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, said on Monday that such a system is designed to protect against states such as North Korea.
 
The US push for new anti-missile bulwarks includes two sets of trilateral dialogues - one with Japan and Australia and the other with Japan and South Korea, said Creedon.
 
Shen said the proposal would be welcomed by Seoul and Tokyo.
 
"Such an initiative would meet almost no resistance in South Korea and Japan, given their grave concerns about their security against the backdrop of Pyongyang`s resolute stance in carrying out the launch," Shen said.
 
Tao noted while targeting potential threats from North Korea, the proposed missile defense installations are also designed to contain China.
 
Responding to the announcement by the Pentagon, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China believes every country should address anti-missile issues in a cautious manner, calling for them to achieve universal security through political and diplomatic means.
 
"The shield would aggregate the imbalance of military strength in the region, and would encourage the hegemony of the US," Shen said.
 
Meanwhile, North Korea fired two KN-01 short-range surface-to-ship missiles on Thursday, Chosun Ilbo reported, quoting anonymous military sources. Another South Korean newspaper, the JoongAng Ilbo, reported that North Korea fired two missiles of the same type on Wednesday afternoon.

South Korea`s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could not confirm the reports, saying it wouldn`t comment on intelligence matters.

North Korea regularly test fires short-range missiles and its military has been conducting annual war games in recent days

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