Japan gears up as North Korea brings forward satellite launch

Tokyo, Feb 7 (IANS) The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will bring forward its planned rocket launch to as early as Sunday, Japanese officials said on Saturday, adding in a press briefing that necessary measures were being carried out.

According to government sources here, Pyongyang, who has been strongly urged by Japan to refrain from launching what it has said is an earth observation satellite, will step up the launch date, initially slated for sometime between February 8 and February 25, to sometime between Sunday and February 14.

Japan has maintained that such a launch would be in clear violation of UN resolutions, adding that it would continue to work closely with the United States to strongly demand that the DPRK refrains from its planned launch, Xinhua reported.

Defence ministry personnel said on Saturday evening that they believe the launch window, set between 7 a.m. and noon Pyongyang time, would remain unchanged, with weather conditions possibly determining the exact day and time of the launch.

“Despite the change of plan, we will take appropriate measures to secure the safety of the people under any circumstance,” Defence Minister Gen Nakatani told a press briefing late Saturday, adding that there was no change to the possible areas of Japan’s territory that might be affected.

He also said that the ministry aims to complete by Sunday morning the deployment of Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers equipped with antiballistic missiles and ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the DPRK’s plans were a provocative act that threatens Japan’s national security and along with the US and South Korea, his government would step up pressure on the DPRK to abandon its planned launch.

The DPRK initially said that it plans to launch a rocket carrying an earth observation satellite with Pyongyang making the notification to the UN’s London-based International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last week.

The government here said that the IMO has received information from Pyongyang about its planned reschedule to launch its rocket.

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