National / Politics

Japan has interceptors stand down as North Korea missile threat abates

Kyodo

Japan has canceled an order issued in March to the Self-Defense Forces to intercept incoming North Korean missiles, government sources said.

In response, the SDF began pulling out interceptors, including the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors deployed on the premises of the Defense Ministry headquarters in central Tokyo, they said.

The government canceled the order, issued March 16 by Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, apparently because it now sees no immediate danger of incoming missiles, after consulting with the United States and South Korea, the sources said Wednesday.

Japan has been on alert due to concern that North Korea may do something provocative in reaction to U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises that ended in late April, or during the North Korean ruling party congress that ended Monday.

Nakatani issued the order after North Korea continued firing ballistic missiles since February, and extended the order in late April ahead of the North Korean ruling party’s first congress in 36 years.

The ministry has never confirmed issuing or extending the order.

In addition to the battery deployed to the grounds of the Defense Ministry headquarters, PAC-3s were also deployed to an SDF base straddling Tokyo and Asaka, Saitama Prefecture, and at Narashino, Chiba Prefecture.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force also deployed Aegis destroyers equipped with the Standard Missile-3 interceptor system to seas around Japan.

In defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning the country from conducting nuclear tests and using ballistic missile technologies, Pyongyang conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch using ballistic missile technology in February.

In a related move, a separate government source said Wednesday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to ask his Group of Seven peers to “strongly condemn” North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile development programs in a declaration to be adopted at their May 26 and 27 summit in Mie Prefecture.

In the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s claim during the ruling party congress that his country was a “responsible nuclear weapons state,” Japan wants the G-7 to agree never to recognize Pyongyang as a nuclear state nor tolerate its missile and nuclear weapons development, the source said.

At the Ise-Shima summit, the leaders are expected to affirm steady implementation of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions on North Korea in a concerted effort to prod the country to give up its nuclear ambitions, according to the source.