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Japan pledges to shoot down N. Korean rocket

Date Posted: 2012-03-23

North Korea says a missile to be launched next month wonít cross Japan, but analysts say it could overfly Kyushu or Okinawa. If it does, Japan says itís ready to shoot it down.

North Koreaís Pyongyang regime says it will launch the rocket sometime between April 12th and 16th, but says its path wonít affect its neighbors. Western analysts donít agree, saying itís possible the flight path could bring it over Japan. Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka has already told the Diet he will issue orders to the Japanese Self Defense Forces to be ready, activating Japanís missile defense system to shoot down the missile.

Self Defense Forces are ready with Aegis-equipped destroyers that are carrying ballistic interceptors. Japan also has ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors in its arsenal. On Okinawa, the U.S. Army has its own Patriot-3 missiles based with an Air Defense Artillery Battalion.

Pyongyang says the launch is part of its peaceful space research program, but the United States, Japan and other countries say itís actually a disguised missile test. North Korea says it will launch the missile on a ďsaferĒ flight path than those in previous launches that ventured into Japanese airspace. Itís 2009 launch of a long-range rocket over Japan stirred anger. Pyongyang said the path was an attempt to get a satellite on the rocket into orbit, but Japan and its allies disagreed, calling it a ballistic missile test.

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