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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Noda urges N Korea to cancel rocket launch as Japan readies missile units


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called Tuesday for North Korea to cancel its planned rocket launch, telling world leaders at a nuclear security summit the move violated U.N. resolutions.

“North Korea’s launch of a missile under the guise of ‘a satellite’... is against the non-proliferation efforts of the international community and would be a violation of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Noda said, according to an English version of his speech given to reporters.

“As such, the international community strongly urges North Korea to exercise restraint and cancel the launch.”

Noda’s comments to leaders or top officials from 53 nations at the summit in South Korea came after Japan announced Monday it would deploy surface-to-air missiles in central Tokyo in readiness to shoot down the rocket if needed.

The North said this month it would fire the rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il-Sung.

The nuclear-armed state insists it has a right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes.

The United States, Japan, South Korea and other nations say the exercise is a disguised missile test, which U.N. resolutions have banned.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on Tuesday ordered interceptor missile units to prepare for North Korea’s rocket launch.

The Unha-3 rocket is expected to fly over western Japan. That has raised concerns that a failed launch, or a falling stage of the rocket, could endanger Japanese lives or property.

“We must be fully prepared to protect the safety of our nation,” Tanaka said after issuing the order at a meeting military commanders.

Officials have said Japan is likely to send three AEGIS-equipped destroyers to the Pacific and East China Sea and deploy mobile Patriot missile launchers to islands in Okinawa. An interceptor missile unit is also likely to be deployed in Tokyo, although the capital is well away from the expected flight path.

Seoul has also warned it might shoot down any parts of the North Korean rocket that pass over South Korean territory.

Japan mobilized its interceptor units and issued a similar warning to North Korea before a rocket launch in 2009, but did not follow through.

Interceptor missiles on the Japanese destroyers would serve as the first line of defense, and the land-based Patriot missiles would be a backup. Japan has successfully tested its interceptor missiles, but has never used them in a real-world situation.

Japan Today

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