SDF finishes deployment for N. Korea rocket launch

Kyodo

Japan on Saturday finished most of its preparations for North Korea’s planned launch this month of a long-range rocket in defiance of U.N. ban, government officials said.

A Self-Defense Forces commander reported to Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto that the deployment of all units in charge of intercepting the rocket in the event any part threatens to fall on Japan was completed by 7 a.m.

Morimoto said the SDF will remain on alert for the next two weeks.

North Korea said it will launch a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite sometime between 7 a.m. and noon on any day from Monday to Dec. 22.

In a related development, the Foreign Ministry will set up on Sunday a special task force on the planned launch to coordinate polices more closely with the United States, South Korea and other countries, the officials said.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, who will head the task force, and senior diplomats will stay at the ministry during the declared launch window to collect and analyze information on North Korea, the officials said.

The weather at the launchpad could have a major impact on the launch time.

The Meteorological Agency said Friday that weather conditions around Tongchang-ri in northwestern North Korea, where the launchpad and system control facilities for the rocket are located, are forecast to be mostly fine Monday through Thursday due to a high pressure system expected to cover the area.

The agency also said the weather could be cloudy at times during daylight hours on Tuesday and Thursday, and is expected to be cloudy next Friday.

Strong surface winds are unlikely this week, the agency said.

While the Meteorological Agency usually doesn’t forecast weather conditions for foreign countries, it said it made the announcement due to strong public interest in the planned rocket launch.

The agency made the forecast based on computerized analysis of atmospheric conditions.

South Korea, the United States and Japan view the launch as a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.