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Japan Puts Missile Defence on Alert as North Korea Warns of Satellite Launch

TOKYO – Japan on Monday put its ballistic missile defences on alert and warned that it would shoot down any projectile that threatened its territory after North Korea notified it of a satellite launch between May 31 and June 11.

Nuclear-armed North Korea said it has completed its first military spy satellite, and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for a launch to place it in orbit.

“The government recognises there is a possibility the satellite may pass through our country’s territory,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular briefing after North Korea informed the Japanese coast guard of the planned launch.

The order by the Japanese Defence Ministry, the first in response to a North Korean space launch since 2016, comes after Japan in April dispatched to the East China Sea a destroyer carrying Standard Missile-3 interceptors that can hit targets in space, and sent ground-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to strike warheads closer to the ground, to the Okinawan islands.

Japan expects North Korea to fire the rocket carrying its satellite over the south-west island chain, as it did in 2016, a ministry spokesman said.

The North Korean state media has criticised plans by its rivals – South Korea, the United States and Japan – to share real-time data on its missile launches, describing the three as discussing “sinister measures” for tightening military cooperation.

Analysts say a military satellite would enhance North Korea’s surveillance capability and improve its ability to strike targets in the event of war

Mr Kim in May inspected a military satellite facility, said the North’s KCNA state news agency.

North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that any North Korean missile launch would be a serious violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from launching,” his office posted on Twitter, adding that it would cooperate with the US, South Korea and other countries, and would do all it can to collect and analyse information from any launch. 

South Korea joined Japan in urging the reclusive North Korea to scrap its planned satellite launch. “If North Korea presses ahead, it will pay the price and suffer,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement that urged North Korea to withdraw its “illegal” launch plan.

Mr Kim Gunn, South Korea’s special envoy for peace and security affairs on the peninsula, held a three-way telephone call with his counterparts from Japan and the US, the ministry added.

They agreed to work together closely in leading a united response by the international community to Pyongyang’s planned satellite launch, it said.

Source: The Straits Times