Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka has said Tokyo may try to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it heads towards Japanese territory or waters, according to reports on Tuesday.
The North has said it intends to launch a long-range rocket next month to put a satellite into orbit, but the United States and other nations consider it a thinly veiled missile test that would breach a United Nations ban.
“I am considering giving an order to intercept it,” Tanaka told parliament on Monday. Such an order would be subject to approval by the prime minister, he added.
The leading Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers reported that Japan was considering deploying several Aegis-class warships and surface-to-air PAC-3 Patriot missiles to take down the rocket.
The Japanese government said late Monday that North Korea had informed the International Maritime Organisation of the rocket’s scheduled trajectory.
It added that it believed the projectile may pass over part of the Okinawa island chain in the far south of the country.
The government said it expects the first stage, which powers the rocket’s initial ascent, to come down in waters west of South Korea with the second stage booster falling east of the Philippines.
In 2009, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket over Japan in what it said at the time was an attempt to get a satellite into orbit. Tokyo and its allies said they considered it to be a ballistic missile test.
In that launch, the rocket passed over Japanese territory without incident or any attempt to shoot it down.