By Telegraph UK
The nuclear-armed North 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 UN.
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.
The preparations by Japan, regularly the target of North Korean barbs, come as world leaders including US President Barack Obama prepare to meet in Seoul early next week for a summit officially focused on nuclear terrorism.
But the North’s atomic programme is expected to be the subject of intense discussion at the talks, which are also to be attended by the presidents of China and Russia.
“I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships,” Japan’s Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters, referring to surface-to-air missiles and destroyers carrying missiles.
“We are talking to relevant local governments about the deployment,” he said. The surface-to-air interceptors would reportedly be deployed on Japan’s southern Okinawa island chain, but any order to shoot down the North Korean rocket would first need the approval of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Japanese officials have said the projectile may pass over Okinawa. In a notice to the UN’s International Maritime Organisation, North Korea has said the first stage of the rocket will fall in international waters between China and South Korea.
The second stage is expected to splash down just 118 miles east of the northern Philippines. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who plans to raise the rocket launch at the Seoul summit, 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. North Korea has warned that any attempts to raise the rocket launch at the Monday-Tuesday nuclear summit in Seoul would be taken as “a declaration of war” and rejected South Korean demands to call off the launch.