Japan has taken measures to prepare for the potential fallout from a North Korean satellite launch, including activating missile interceptors and deploying destroyers equipped with SM-3 ship-to-air missiles to coastal waters. Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada instructed troops to ready PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles in southwestern Japan, including Okinawa and nearby islands, in an area believed to be under the flight path of the North Korean rocket carrying the satellite. The minister also ordered troops to “implement measures necessary to limit damage in the event of a ballistic missile falling”. An order to fire missiles has to be approved by the prime minister.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un announced earlier this week that its first military spy satellite will be launched on an unspecified date. In 2012 and 2016, North Korea tested ballistic missiles that Pyongyang called satellite launches, both of which flew over the Okinawa region. North Korea has test-fired about 100 missiles since early last year, saying it was responding to joint US-South Korean military manoeuvres it calls an invasion rehearsal. Several of the missiles flew over Japan or landed off the northern Japanese coast.
Last week, North Korea test-launched a solid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time. The country is expected to carry out more weapons tests as the United States and South Korea continue their joint air exercise into next week. On Tuesday, G7 foreign ministers meeting in Japan demanded that North Korea refrain from any further ballistic missile tests following a spate of launches this year. The group of rich nations also warned Pyongyang against carrying out an expected nuclear weapons test and said there would be a “robust” response if it did not comply.