This March 28, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea's Tongchang-ri Launch Facility on the nation?s northwest coast. (AP-Yonhap News)
Japan's defence minister said Friday he had issued an order to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threatens the nation's territory, a planned launch that has raised global alarm bells.
North Korea said this month it would fire a rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il-Sung.
But the United States and its allies suspect the launch is a disguised missile test, and said it would contravene UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's missile programme.
"I issued a destroy order," Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters in Tokyo, saying he had received the green light to shoot it down.
The order was issued after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet approved it on Friday morning.
Last week Tanaka said he was readying Japan's missile defence systems but Friday's approval gives the military the power to destroy the rocket if necessary.
He said last week surface-to-air interceptors would be deployed on the southern island chain of Okinawa, over which Tokyo believes the projectile may pass, and in central Tokyo, one of the world's biggest cities.
In 2009, Japan ordered missile-defence preparations before Pyongyang's last long-range rocket launch, which brought UN Security Council condemnation and tightened sanctions against the isolated communist state.
That rocket, which North Korea said was also aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, passed over Japanese territory without incident or any attempt to shoot it down. (AFP)
日방위상, 자위대에 北위성 '파괴조치명령'
일본 방위상이 북한이 발사할 위성에 대해 필 요할 경우 요격하도록 자위대에 명령했다.
일본 정부는 30일 오전 노다 요시히코(野田佳彦) 총리 주재로 안전보장회의를 열고 북한이 발사한 위성이 일본 영토에 떨어질 우려가 있을 경우 요격한다는 방침 을 결정했다.
다나카 나오키(田中直紀) 방위상은 이 결정에 따라 자위대에 북한의 위성에 대한 파괴조치명령'을 발령했다.
북한은 다음 달 12∼16일의 오전 중에 미사일 실험으로 보이는 위성 발사를 예고해 놓고 있다.
일본 방위성은 북한의 위성 발사에 대비해 오키나와(沖繩) 주변의 동중국해와 서태평양, 한국의 동해 등에 이지스함 3척을 배치하기로 했다.
또 이들 이지스함이 북한이 발사한 위성을 레이더로 추적하는 동안 함정 주변의 경계 감시를 위해 F15 전투기를 파견하기로 했다.