Ja­pan to KO Py­ongyang rocket if it feels threat­ened

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

TOKYO | Ja­pan’s de­fense min­is­ter said Fri­day he had is­sued an or­der to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it threat­ens the na­tion’s ter­ri­tory, a planned launch that has raised global alarm bells.

De­fense Min­is­ter Naoki Tanaka told re­porters in Tokyo that Prime Min­is­ter Yoshi­hiko Noda’s Cab­i­net gave the mil­i­tary the needed po­lit­i­cal ap­proval on an es­ca­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional cri­sis.

“I is­sued a ‘de­stroy’ or­der,” Mr. Tanaka said Fri­day morn­ing.

On Thurs­day, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that new satel­lite im­agery ap­pears to show prepa­ra­tions for a lon­grange rocket launch in North Korea de­spite in­ter­na­tional ob­jec­tions.

The im­age from a pri­vately op­er­ated satel­lite was taken Wed­nes­day at the Tongchang-ri site, where North Korea says it plans to launch the rocket be­tween April 12 and 16.

An anal­y­sis con­ducted for the U.S.Korea In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies says the im­age shows trucks and fuel tanks out­side two large build­ings that would be used to store pro­pel­lant for the rocket.

It also shows work un­der way at a gantry tower next to a mo­bile launch pad, with a crane be­ing used to load equip­ment. The rocket it­self is not yet vis­i­ble.

“The im­age shows not only that the launch is go­ing ahead, but the prepa­ra­tions seem to be on sched­ule for the planned launch dates,” said Joel Wit, vis­it­ing fel­low at the in­sti­tute and ed­i­tor of its web­site on North Korea, “38 North.”

North Korea said it would fire a rocket to put a satel­lite into or­bit this month to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the birth of found­ing pres­i­dent Kim Il­sung. But the U.S. and its al­lies sus­pect the launch is a dis­guised mis­sile test, and said it would con­tra­vene U.N. sanc­tions aimed at curb­ing North Korea’s mis­sile pro­gram.

Pres­i­dent Obama has ap­pealed to the North Korean lead­er­ship to aban­don the rocket plan, but was promptly re­buffed by the North.

If the launch does go ahead, it will ter­mi­nate a Feb. 29 ac­cord be­tween the long­time ad­ver­saries, un­der which the North agreed to a mora­to­rium on lon­grange mis­sile and nu­clear tests in ex­change for food aid.

The U.S. says the plans to pro­vide the food to the im­pov­er­ished com­mu­nist na­tion are al­ready on hold.

In 2009, Ja­pan or­dered mis­sile-de­fense prepa­ra­tions be­fore Py­ongyang’s last long-range rocket launch, which brought U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil con­dem­na­tion and tight­ened sanc­tions against the se­cre­tive Stal­in­ist state.

That rocket, which North Korea also said was aimed at putting a satel­lite into or­bit, passed over Ja­pan with­out in­ci­dent or any at­tempt to shoot it down.

Also Fri­day, two South Korean news­pa­pers said North Korea test­fired two short-range mis­siles off its west coast this week amid the in­ter­na­tional alarm over the planned lon­grange rocket launch.

The North fired what ap­peared to be two KN-01 ground-to-ship mis­siles with a range of up to 75 miles early Thurs­day from a mis­sile base near Nampo, Cho­sun Ilbo news­pa­per said.

Although Py­ongyang fre­quently times such short-range tests as shows of force dur­ing pe­ri­ods of ten­sion, Cho­sun Ilbo quoted an uniden­ti­fied Seoul gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial as say­ing the launch was ap­par­ently aimed at im­prov­ing the weapon’s per­for­mance and not re­lated to the sched­uled rocket launch.

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