Three Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers departed for the East China Sea Saturday ahead of a planned rocket launch by North Korea.
The Kirishima and the Chokai, equipped with sea-based interceptor missiles and Aegis combat systems, left the Sasebo naval base in Nagasaki Prefecture, while the Myoko left Maizuru base in Kyoto Prefecture to shoot down the rocket if it begins falling over Japanese territory.
Meanwhile, an Aegis-equipped ship from the U.S. Navy left the Sasebo base later Saturday.
To brace for the planned launch, ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors will also be deployed at four locations in Okinawa Prefecture, including Miyako and Ishigaki islands in the East China Sea.
PAC-3 antimissile batteries were also deployed Saturday at Self-Defense Forces bases and training areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area, specifically in the capital’s Ichigaya district, Narashino in Chiba Prefecture, and Asaka in Saitama Prefecture.
The moves come in the wake of North Korea’s announcement in March that it will launch an “Earth observation satellite” to mark the April 15 centennial of founding father Kim Il Sung’s birth.
Japan and many other nations, however, believe the launch is actually a long-range ballistic missile test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Pyongyang’s planned launch was high on the agenda during talks Saturday in Ningbo, China, between the Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and his South Korean counterpart.
Genba and Kim Sung Hwan discussed the potential response by Japan and South Korea if Pyongyang proceeds with the launch, Japanese officials said, declining to reveal what actions the two ministers discussed.
If North Korea blasts the rocket into space, the international community should view it as violating a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang, and deal with the matter in “an appropriate manner,” a Japanese official said.
“We are still at the stage of strongly calling for restraint by North Korea,” was all the official would say when asked if Genba and Kim had discussed a possible new Security Council resolution to impose tighter sanctions on Pyongyang.
The two ministers also reaffirmed they will act in unison when dealing with the new North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un, especially at a time when the threatened rocket launch has escalated tensions in the region, according to the officials
The talks came ahead of a trilateral meeting Sunday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Ningbo, at which the three countries are likely to urge North Korea to scrub the launch.
Japan, China and South Korea are also expected to speed up preparations to allow their respective leaders to agree to launch negotiations on a trilateral free-trade agreement at a summit scheduled in May in Beijing, the officials said