Some of the roughly 1,000 Self-Defense Forces personnel deployed in Okinawa Prefecture to respond to North Korea’s rocket launch began returning to their bases Saturday morning, after the launch ended in failure the previous day.
The troops started preparing to return after Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka lifted his order to intercept debris from the rocket, or the rocket itself, if it appeared to pose a danger to Japanese territory.
All SDF personnel deployed in Okinawa will pull out by Thursday, along with their ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile batteries.
Tanaka ordered the deployment of PAC-3s to four locations in the prefecture, including on Ishigaki and Miyako islands, as well as three locations in Tokyo that weren’t under the rocket’s scheduled flight path.
Three Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles were also deployed to the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea near Okinawa.
The North said the first stage of the rocket would come down in waters west of South Korea and that the second would fly over areas near Ishigaki Island, part of the Sakishima island chain in Okinawa, before falling east of the Philippines’ Luzon Island.
The public expressed its frustration over North Korea’s provocative actions amid international concerns about the hermit state’s nuclear and missile programs, in the wake of Friday’s failed rocket launch.
The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea called the launch, which was mostly seen as a cover for testing ballistic missile technology, “an obvious violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Effective sanctions must be imposed.”
Shigeru Yokota, the 79-year-old father of Megumi Yokota, who was abducted to North Korea in 1977, told reporters Friday: “North Korea did something foolish. I wish it would have acted more reasonably.”
Yokota added that new sanctions in response to the launch could prompt Pyongyang to take further provocative actions, including a new nuclear test, and that attempts to resolve the abduction issue could be neglected.
Kayoko Arimoto, 86, the mother of abductee Keiko Arimoto, who was seized by the North’s agents in 1983, said she had expected Pyongyang to shift its hardline stance under new leader Kim Jong Un, “but no change has been seen.”
In a statement, the association also denounced North Korea’s “appallingly inhumane stance” of keeping abductees from seeing their families. It demanded even tougher sanctions, including a total ban on remittances and carrying cash to the communist country.
“Even though North Korea failed (in the launch), there will be no change in its intention to go nuclear,” said Koichi Kawano, 72, an atomic bomb survivor who heads an organization of hibakusha.
Kazuo Okoshi, secretary general of an organization of A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima, said it was obvious that Friday’s rocket violated U.N. resolutions banning Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile technology launches. Okoshi, 72, said he is also worried about a possible nuclear test by the North.
But Lee Sil Gun, 82, who heads a Hiroshima group of Korean atomic bomb survivors that maintains some ties to Pyongyang, defended the launch, saying that every country has the right to put a satellite into space. But he said that “no country should have a nuclear arsenal.”