Japan puts its missile defenses on alert while North Korea warns of a satellite launch

  • Japan says it will drop any missile that threatens North Korea
  • The United States and South Korea say the planned launch violates UN resolutions
  • Pyongyang’s satellite will follow a Seoul missile launch

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) – Japan put its ballistic missile defenses on alert on Monday and vowed to shoot down any projectile threatening its territory after North Korea notified it of a planned satellite launch between May 31 and June 11.

Nuclear-armed North Korea says it has completed its first military spy satellite and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch.

It would be North Korea’s latest move in a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said Tokyo expects North Korea to launch the satellite-carrying missile over the island chain in southwestern Japan, as it did in 2016.

Analysts say the new satellite is part of a surveillance technology program that includes drones, and aims to improve the ability to strike targets in wartime.

“We will take destructive measures against ballistic missiles and other missiles that have been confirmed to have landed on our territory,” the Japanese Defense Ministry said in a statement.

She added that Japan would use the Standard-3 (SM-3) missile or the Patriot PAC-3 missile to destroy a North Korean missile.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that any North Korean missile launch would be a serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions condemning its nuclear and missile activity.

“We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from the launch,” his office said on Twitter, adding that it would cooperate with the United States, South Korea and other countries and do everything possible to collect and analyze information from any launch.

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A US State Department spokesperson said that any North Korean launch that uses ballistic missile technology, including that used to put a satellite into orbit, violates several UN resolutions.

The spokesman said the United States urges North Korea to “refrain from further illegal activities and calls on Pyongyang to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy.”

Des Soldats des Forces japonaises d’autodéfense devant une unit de Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles in Tokyo, au Japon. / FILE PHOTO / REUTERS / Kim Kyung-hoon

South Korea joined the isolated North’s call to cancel its plan, which it described as “illegal”.

“If North Korea goes ahead, it will pay the price and suffer,” a South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The ministry added that Kim Joon, the South’s special envoy for peace and security on the peninsula, had a three-way phone call with his counterparts from Japan and the United States.

She added that they agreed to work closely together to lead a unified response by the international community to Pyongyang’s planned move.

Chad O’Carroll, chief executive of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea, said that with no serious leverage over Pyongyang, calls from Tokyo and Seoul to halt the launch would have little effect.

“In the midst of major US-ROK military exercises and in the aftermath of South Korea’s satellite launch, North Korea is likely to view Seoul’s criticism as highly hypocritical.”

A South Korean home-made space rocket launched a commercial-grade satellite into orbit for the first time on Thursday.

North Korea has attempted several times to launch “earth observation” satellites, two of which appear to have successfully been put into orbit, the last one in 2016.

In May, its leader Kim inspected a military satellite facility, KCNA said.

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In April, Japan sent a destroyer to the East China Sea with SM-3 interceptor missiles that can hit targets in space, and PAC-3 ground missiles, designed to hit warheads closer to the ground, were sent to the Okinawa Islands.

“The government is aware that there is a possibility that the satellite may pass through our country’s territory,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a regular briefing after North Korea informed the Japanese Coast Guard of the plan.

North Korean state media has criticized plans by Japan, South Korea and the United States to share real-time data on missile launches, describing the three as discussing “vicious measures” to closer military cooperation.

Additional reporting by Hyunsoo Yim in Seoul, Nobuhiro Kubo, Elaine Lies, Satoshi Sugiyama and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Jo Min Park in Seoul, David Dolan in Tokyo and Matt Spetalnick in Washington. Editing by Robert Purcell, Hugh Lawson and Chris Rees

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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