/

Japan, U.S. close ranks ahead of expected North Korean missile launch

Kyodo

As Tokyo began to brace for a possible launch, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday he has agreed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to work closely regarding North Korea’s apparent preparations to send a long-range missile skyward.

“We will work closely with the United States and other countries involved and take all possible measures to ensure the safety of our people,” Kishida said after the teleconference with Kerry, realized at Tokyo’s request.

Prior to the bilateral talks, Kishida told a news conference he “cannot deny that North Korea could take further provocative actions,” referring to signs of activity at the country’s missile launch site following a nuclear test earlier this month.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Pyongyang’s missile launch could come without advance announcement, while a U.S. government official said the launch may occur “within a couple of weeks.”

The government has ordered the Self-Defense Forces to prepare for the shooting down of North Korean ballistic missiles in the event any are launched, government sources said Friday.

Issuance of such an order will not be announced so as to avoid revealing Japan’s missile detection capabilities.

“We have taken measures so that we can respond to any situations,” Suga told a news conference.

Pyongyang last fired a long-range ballistic missile in December 2012, and claimed it was a satellite launch.

Signs of the possible missile launch based on satellite imagery analyses emerged as the U.N. Security Council prepares a resolution against North Korea in response to its nuclear test on Jan. 6 in defiance of past U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Kishida and Kerry reaffirmed their cooperation in seeking the adoption of a resolution imposing tougher sanctions on Pyongyang.