Japan Readies Military Ahead of North Korea Rocket Launch
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has announced that Japan has mobilized its military to defend against any "dangerous debris" from North Korea's satellite launch, scheduled for April 4-8.
The suspicion here is that Pyongyang is actually testing a long-range missile, which Hamada, with careful language, addressed.
Japan's constitution does permits pre-emptive strikes, but would indeed allow the destruction of any debris (or misfired rockets) that threaten Japanese soil, as the North Korean rocket's trajectory will take it over northern Japan.
US, South Korean and Japanese delegates will meet in Washington over the weekend to discuss the issue further.
Pyongyang has said that between April 4-8 it will launch a satellite, but regional powers believe the real purpose is to test its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2. It has already positioned what is believed to be the missile on a launch pad.
"I have issued an order ... to prepare to destroy any object that might fall on Japan as a result of an accident involving a flying object from North Korea," Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters after a meeting of Japan's Security Council.
The US Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, says North Korea is using its rocket launch to demonstrate that it has an intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
U.S. officials would not confirm the report but did not dispute it. Kyodo, citing "sources close to Japan-U.S. relations," said the missile had been placed at Musudan-ri, a site that has been used for previous missile tests.