Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on Tuesday ordered the Self-Defense Forces to prepare missile shield elements to intercept a rocket North Korea plans to launch next month.
The preparation order will enable the SDF to begin examining locations to deploy ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile batteries on Okinawa, Ishigaki and Miyako islands, and in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
North Korea told the International Maritime Organization it will launch an “Earth observation satellite” between April 12 and 16 to mark the centennial of Kim Il Sung’s birthday. The launch is seen by the international community as a test of the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. If launched, the rocket is expected to fly over Okinawa’s Sakishima Island.
The SDF is also looking to deploy Aegis destroyers carrying Standard Missile-3 surface to air missiles.
Helicopters may also be deployed if it appears the rocket or its debris may come down on Japanese territory.
“The Defense Ministry and the SDF will make solid preparations to protect the people’s lives and property and take all possible measures” against the rocket launch, Tanaka told reporters after a meeting with high-ranking Defense Ministry officials.
The final orders for the PAC-3 and Aegis deployments are expected to be issued Friday after a meeting of the Security Council of Japan chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.