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Japan braces for North Korean missile launch

Japan has threatened to shoot down the rocket if it passes over Japanese airspace. In 1998, North Korea sent a missile over Japan's main island.

By Correspondent / April 10, 2012

In this aerial photo shows the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Chinen Sub Base where PAC-3 Patriot missile units are deployed in Nanjo in Japan's southern most prefecture of Okinawa, Tuesday, April 10, in preparation for North Korea's rocket launch, expected to take place sometime between April 12-16.

Kyodo News/AP

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Tokyo

Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific appear to have failed to persuade North Korea to abort a rocket launch planned for as early as this week. Reports suggest that the region could be further unsettled by a rumored third nuclear weapons test by the regime.

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The North insists that the launch, which could come on any morning between April 12 to 16 and will coincide with the centenary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-sung on April 15, is designed to put an observation satellite into orbit. Japan, South Korea, and the US, however, say the launch would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the North from engaging in missile development.

"It involves a missile, whichever way you look at it," Sen.Jim Webb (D) of Virginia, who sits on the Senate's foreign relations committee, said in Tokyo last week, adding that it comes "at a time when we were testing the intentions of the North Korean regime. There were negotiations tied to food aid and a clear understanding that [there] not be this kind of activity by North Korea."

Japan has taken a particularly dim view of the launch, threatening to shoot down the rocket or its fragments if it veers into Japanese territory. While doubts exist over its ability to shoot down the rocket, Japan has deployed ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missile defense systems on and around the southern island of Okinawa and in Tokyo. The Defense Ministry has also sent three Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying sea-based interceptors to the East China Sea.

Japan has seen this before

In 1998, North Korea sent a missile over Japan's main island before it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. While North Korea says the expected trajectory of this latest rocket poses no territorial threat, two Japanese airlines said they would alter routes around the Philippines, which lies in the rocket's flight path, during the launch window.

Japan imposed sanctions against the North following the latter's first nuclear test in 2006 and was a keen supporter of tough international measures following a second nuclear test three years later. It has recently extended bilateral sanctions for another year.

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