TOKYO/SEOUL, May 29 (Reuters) – Japan has vowed to shoot down any missile that threatens its territory after North Korea announced it would launch a satellite from May 31 to June 11.
The nuclear-armed North says it has completed its first military spy satellite and that its leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for launch.
It would be the latest step by the North in a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.
Japan expects North Korea to launch its satellite over the southwestern island chain, as it did in 2016, a defense ministry spokesman said.
Analysts say the new satellite is part of a surveillance technology program involving drones aimed at improving the ability to strike targets in wartime.
“We will take destructive measures against ballistic and other missiles confirmed to land on our territory,” Japan’s defense ministry said in a statement.
Japan uses its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) or Patriot missile PAC-3 to destroy the North Korean missile.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that North Korea’s missile launch was a serious violation of UN Security Council resolutions condemning its nuclear and missile activities.
“We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from launching,” his office said on Twitter, adding that it would cooperate with its U.S. ally, South Korea and other countries, and do everything possible to collect and analyze information from any missile.
South Korea joined Japan in urging the isolated North to abandon its planned satellite launch.
“If North Korea pushes forward, it will pay the price and suffer,” a spokesman for the South’s foreign ministry said in a statement, urging the North to withdraw the “illegal” launch plan.
The South’s special envoy for peace and security affairs on the peninsula, Kim Gunn, held a three-way phone call with his counterparts from Japan and the United States, the ministry added.
They agreed to work closely together to lead the international community’s coordinated response to Pyongyang’s planned satellite launch.
North Korea has made several attempts to launch “Earth observation” satellites, two of which were successfully placed into orbit, the latest in 2016.
In May, its leader Kim inspected a military satellite facility, state news agency KCNA reported.
In April, Japan sent a destroyer to the East China Sea carrying SM-3 interceptors capable of striking targets in space, and land-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to attack warships near the surface, to the Okinawan islands.
“The government recognizes the possibility that the satellite could pass through our country’s border,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular briefing after the North notified the Japanese coast guard.
North Korean state media has criticized plans by its rivals Japan, South Korea and the United States to share real-time data on its missile launches.
Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Nobuhiro Kubo in Seoul, Elaine Lies, Satoshi Sugiyama and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Joo-Min Park in Seoul and David Dolan in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birzel
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