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Japan on alert to intercept NK rocket

By Yang Jingjie (Global Times)

09:32, April 01, 2012

Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on Friday 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.

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