Japan Orders Possible North Korean Rocket Interception
By Kurt Achin
27 March 2009
Japan's military is getting ready to shoot down part or all of the rocket North Korea is planning to launch, if it looks like it will land anywhere on Japanese territory. Meanwhile, senior regional envoys are heading to Washington to craft a diplomatic response to the imminent launch.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada says he has ordered the interception of any dangerous debris, if anything goes wrong with North Korea's planned rocket launch.
He says any missile or rocket flying over Japan is unacceptable, and adds Japan will take approriate measures with anything that affects the nation's interests.
Hamada's comments follow a meeting of Japan's Security Council Friday, at which senior officials voted to approve the use of missile defense technology to destroy any part of the North Korean rocket that looks like it will land on Japan.
North Korea says it will launch, what it says is a communications satellite, sometime between April 4 and April 8. The trajectory is expected to cross Northern Japanese territory.
South Korea, Japan, and the United States view the planned launch as an unacceptable attempt to advance the North's ballistic missile program. The long-range rocket Pyongyang intends to launch is theoretically capable of delivering a warhead as far as the western United States.
Leaders of all three countries, including Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, say the launch will violate a United Nations resolution passed after North Korea's 2006 nuclear weapon test.
He says Japan will strongly protest through the United Nations, while also urging North Korea not to carry out the launch.
North Korea says attempts to shoot down its rocket will be an act of war, and that any additional U.N. sanctions resulting from the launch will deal a fatal blow to six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.
South Korea's delegate to those talks left Friday for Washington for high-level consulations on a diplomatic response to the launch.
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