The Japanese government has ordered its military to shoot down the missile that is expected to be launched by North Korea as early as Monday.
The order to destroy the missile should any part of it threaten to fall onto Japanese territory was issued after a meeting of the Security Council of Japan met and was informed that North Korea has begun filling a fuel tank alongside the launch pad at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in preparation for the launch.
Japan has already deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile batteries in Tokyo, as well as in Okinawa and at locations along the northern and western coasts facing the Korean Peninsula.
Three Japanese destroyers equipped with the advanced Aegis detect-and-destroy weapons system have been deployed in the Sea of Japan. The US has also stationed warships in the area to monitor the launch.
New satellite images released on Friday indicate that snow may have slowed the preparations, but Pyongyang shouuld still be ready for liftoff starting on Monday.
Pyongyang claims the launch is an attempt to put an earth-observation satellite into orbit. But analysts and foreign governments share the belief that the it is part of North Korea’s development of long-range missiles.
The head of US forces in Japan, Lt. Gen. Salvatore Angelella, said on Thursday that the launch threatens the stability of the region.
“This is a very dangerous situation and we do not support those actions by North Korea,” he said. “We are monitoring the situation closely.”
The government and military forces in South Korea have been placed on heightened alert, while the Philippines has expressed “serious concern” that the missile will violate resolution by the United Nations Security Council and called on Pyongyang “to reconsider its planned launch and abide by these resolutions, which call for the abandonment of its ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”