• Kyodo News

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The Defense Ministry will probably not attempt to retrieve North Korean rocket components that fell into the seas off Japan because of the difficulties involved in such work, Vice Defense Minister Kohei Masuda said Monday.

“The drop locations have not been pinpointed,” the ministry’s top bureaucrat told reporters, adding that any deep-sea retrieval work would entail untold technical difficulties.

North Korea launched what it claims was a three-stage rocket carrying a satellite on April 5. The first stage fell into the Sea of Japan west of Akita Prefecture, and its remaining stages, along with the payload, dropped into the Pacific after passing over the Tohoku region, according to Japanese and U.S. authorities.

Masuda said the government must first assess the costs and benefits of any retrieval effort, as well as the possible legal repercussions, before embarking on such an endeavor.

Retrieving something lying deep on the ocean floor could be prohibitively expensive, and even if Japan were to retrieve the debris, North Korea could still claim possession, another senior ministry official said, on condition of anonymity.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said shortly after the launch that he would consider retrieving the rocket’s first stage from the Sea of Japan floor if feasible.

Predictably, Pyongyang reacted angrily, calling such a move a “militarily provocative act.”

The rocket launch has prompted conservative lawmakers to call for bolstering deterrence. Former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Japan should consider possessing nuclear weapons, an argument he has brought up in the past.

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