SEOUL/TOKYO, May 29 (Reuters) – After North Korea announced it would launch a satellite from May 31 to June 11, Japan put its missile defenses on alert and warned it would shoot down any missile that threatens its territory.
Nuclear-armed North Korea says it has completed its first military spy satellite and that leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the missile.
“The government recognizes that there is a possibility that the satellite will pass through our country’s border,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular briefing after North Korea informed the Japanese coast guard of the planned launch.
In response to a North Korean space launch since 2016, Japan sent a destroyer carrying Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors capable of hitting targets to the East China Sea in April, according to a directive from the Japanese Defense Ministry. space, and sent land-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to attack warships near the surface, to the Okinawan islands.
Japan expects North Korea to launch its satellite over the southwestern island chain, as it did in 2016, a defense ministry spokesman said.
North Korean state media has criticized plans by its rivals, South Korea, the United States and Japan, to share real-time data on its missile launches, describing the three as discussing “bad measures” to tighten military cooperation.
Analysts say the satellite is part of a surveillance technology program that includes drones to improve its ability to strike targets during wartime.
Kim inspected a military satellite facility in May, the North’s KCNA ST news agency reported.
North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic 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 tweeted, adding that it would cooperate with its US ally South Korea and other countries to do everything possible to collect and analyze information from any missile.
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 Diane Croft, Howard Koller, and Robert Birzel
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