Japan Activates Missile Defenses Amid North Korea’s Satellite Launch Alert

Japan Activates Missile Defenses Amid North Korea's Satellite Launch Alert

Japan activated its ballistic missile defenses on Monday, pledging to intercept any missile that could potentially endanger its territories. This move comes in response to North Korea’s announcement of a satellite launch scheduled between May 31 and June 11. 

The nuclear-capable North Korean state claims to have prepared its inaugural military surveillance satellite, with the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, giving the green light for final launch preparations. This satellite launch marks the latest advancement in North Korea’s sequence of missile launches and arms trials, which also include a novel, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Japan’s defense ministry spokesperson revealed that the nation anticipates North Korea to propel the rocket bearing its satellite over the southwestern island chain, a trajectory previously used in 2016. Analysts suggest this new satellite contributes to a surveillance technology initiative encompassing drones, with the aim of enhancing wartime target strike capabilities. 

The Japanese defense ministry stated, “We will take measures to neutralize ballistic and other missiles verified to be on course for our territory.” The country plans to utilize its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) or Patriot Missile PAC-3 to intercept a potential North Korean missile, it added. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida voiced concerns that any missile launch by North Korea would constitute a grave breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions denouncing the nation’s nuclear and missile endeavors. “We strongly implore North Korea to abandon its launch plans,” his office posted on Twitter, pledging collaboration with allies, such as the U.S. and South Korea, to gather and analyze information from any prospective launch. 

South Korea echoed Japan’s sentiments, urging the isolated North to call off its planned satellite launch. A spokesperson for the South’s foreign ministry warned in a statement, “If North Korea proceeds with the launch, it will bear the consequences and face repercussions.” The ministry urged North Korea to renounce its “unlawful” launch agenda. 

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Kim Gunn, South Korea’s special envoy for peace and security affairs on the peninsula, engaged in a tripartite telephonic conversation with his counterparts from Japan and the U.S., as reported by the ministry. They concurred on closely coordinating a unified response from the international community to Pyongyang’s proposed satellite launch. 

North Korea has undertaken multiple attempts to launch “earth observation” satellites, with two seemingly successful orbits achieved, the latest one in 2016. In May, leader Kim inspected a military satellite facility, as disclosed by the KCNA state news agency. 

In response to the North’s launch plans, Japan deployed an SM-3 interceptor-equipped destroyer to the East China Sea in April. It also dispatched ground-based PAC-3 missiles, designed to intercept warheads closer to the ground, to the Okinawan islands. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno affirmed that the government acknowledges the potential for the satellite to traverse Japanese territory. 

North Korean state media has censured the plans of its adversaries – Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. – to share real-time data on its missile launches, branding these nations as plotting “malicious actions” to fortify military cooperation. 

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