Japanese Prime Minister Noda orders ministries to be on alert over North Korea’s planned ‘satellite launch’ in December

Kyodo

In response to North Korea’s plan to launch an “earth observation satellite” in December, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered relevant ministries Saturday to take every possible precaution to ensure the public’s safety.

Noda also indicated his readiness to urge Pyongyang — in cooperation with the United States, South Korea, China and Russia — not to go through with the launch, according to government officials.

Tokyo will also urge Pyongyang to show restraint over its plan at bilateral director-general level talks in Beijing on Wednesday and Thursday, the officials said.

The planned launch, expected to fall sometime between Dec. 10 and 22, would be the second time North Korea has tested a long-range rocket.

In April, Pyongyang’s attempt to send what it claimed was another satellite into orbit backfired spectacularly, with the three-stage rocket exploding about a minute after takeoff and showering debris over the Yellow Sea off South Korea. The international community widely viewed that launch as a disguised ballistic missile test.

Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto convened a meeting of his senior officials Saturday, apparently to discuss how to deal with the threat of the North’s rocket possibly disintegrating over Japanese territory.

In preparation for the April launch, Japan deployed Aegis-equipped destroyers in surrounding sea areas and ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors in Okinawa Prefecture and the Tokyo metropolitan area.