Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera has ordered a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the Sea of Japan to down any ballistic missiles launched by North Korea in the coming weeks, after Pyongyang fired a medium-range Rodong missile over the waters, a government source said Saturday.
Onodera issued the order Thursday, but did not make it public to avoid putting a chill on renewed high-level talks last week between Tokyo and Pyongyang, the first in more than a year, local media reported earlier.
“The defense minister made the order from April 3rd through to the 25th to prepare for any additional missile launches” by North Korea, the source said.
Onodera, according to the source, did not deploy ground-based Patriot missile batteries that would be the last line of defence against incoming warheads. MSDF Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan are equipped with advanced radar equipment able to track multiple targets and carry missiles designed to take out targets at the edge of space.
Media reports said the Japan-North Korea talks in Beijing last week broke no new ground, but ended with an agreement for further meetings.
The firing of the Rodong missile coincided with a meeting in The Hague between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and followed a series of short-range rocket launches. The launch appeared to be a show of defiance by North Korea. The missile fell into the sea after flying 650 km.