The government is gearing up to prepare to destroy a North Korean rocket purported to carry a satellite if it threatens to fall onto Japanese territory during its scheduled launch next month, government sources said Tuesday.
The government plans to approve the preparatory steps at a Cabinet meeting before the end of March.
Following the decision, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada will order the Self-Defense Forces to prepare to possibly intercept what is assumed to be a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile in line with the Self-Defense Forces Law. This includes deploying ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors in regions where a part or all of the rocket might fall.
The government is also considering deploying two Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying Standard Missile 3 ballistic missile interceptors — one to the Sea of Japan and the other to the Pacific Ocean — while seeking coordination with the U.S. military, the sources said.
North Korea has notified the International Maritime Organization of its plan to launch a satellite into orbit sometime between April 4 and 8, and has provided coordinates for where its expects the first- and second-stage boosters to fall.
The coordinates indicate that the first stage is likely to fall into the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture, while the second is projected to fall into the northern Pacific.
The government is considering deploying PAC-3 interceptors in Akita and Iwate prefectures, which are believed to lie under the rocket’s trajectory, according to the sources.
However, if the rocket, with a target range of more than 6,000 km, keeps to its supposed path, it would not fall onto Japanese soil or into Japanese territorial waters.
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