Japan prepares defences against N Korean rocket

Japan readied its missile defence systems to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threatens the country.

Tokyo: Japan on Friday readied its missile
defence systems to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it
threatens the country, as the UN chief warned that next
month`s launch could jeopardise food aid.

The nuclear-armed North has announced it will launch a
rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, a move that
the United States, South Korea and other nations see as a
pretext for a long-range missile test banned by the UN.

The move by North Korea`s new leadership has set off
alarm bells across the region. The Philippines is calling for
help from the United States to monitor the rocket, part of
which is expected to land off the archipelago.

The preparations by Japan, regularly the target of
North Korean barbs, come as world leaders including US
President Barack Obama prepare to meet in Seoul early next
week for a summit officially focused on nuclear terrorism.

But the North`s atomic programme is expected to be the
subject of intense discussion at the talks, which are also to
be attended by the presidents of China and Russia.

"I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the
PAC-3 and Aegis warships," Japan`s Defence Minister Naoki
Tanaka told reporters, referring to surface-to-air missiles
and destroyers carrying missiles.

"We are talking to relevant local governments about
the deployment," he said.

The surface-to-air interceptors would reportedly be
deployed on Japan`s southern Okinawa island chain, but any
order to shoot down the North Korean rocket would first need
the approval of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Japanese officials have said the projectile may pass
over Okinawa.

In a notice to the UN`s International Maritime
Organisation, North Korea has said the first stage of the
rocket will fall in international waters between China and
South Korea.

The second stage is expected to splash down just 190
kilometres east of the northern Philippines.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who plans to raise
the rocket launch at the Seoul summit, said any launch could
discourage international aid donors and worsen North Korea`s
already dire humanitarian situation.

"Such an act would undermine recent positive
diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international
donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside
the country," he said in a speech in Singapore.

North Korea has warned that any attempts to raise the
rocket launch at the Monday-Tuesday nuclear summit in Seoul
would be taken as "a declaration of war" and rejected South
Korean demands to call off the launch.