Japan will position surface-to-air Patriot missiles on three southern islands to prepare to shoot down a North Korean long-range missile this month if it threatens Japanese territory.
Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto on Dec. 2 decided on the deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile batteries on Okinawa's main island and on Miyakojima and Ishigakijima, all of which are under the North Korean missile's likely flight path.
Additionally, Aegis ships, carrying SM-3 interceptor missiles, will deploy to the East China Sea and to the Sea of Japan. Ground Self-Defense Force personnel will be sent to Yonagunijima island to help deal with the event that rocket parts fall on land.
North Korea has said it will launch a rocket southward between Dec. 10 and 22. It informed Washington on Dec. 1 that it would do so before Dec. 17, the first anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il, a Japanese government official said.
Pyongyang has said the launch is a legitimate attempt to put a satellite in orbit, although all such long-range rocket launches by North Korea are prohibited by the United Nations Security Council, and the launch is widely seen as a ballistic missile test.
Japan's government is expected to convene its security council by the end of this week to issue an order to destroy the missile if it strays off course and could hit Japanese territory.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is considering scaling back his election campaigning to deal with developments on the Korean Peninsula. The official start of the campaign period is Dec. 4, ahead of the Lower House election on Dec. 16.
North Korea's behavior has already become a campaign issue.
"If it carries out the launch, we need to strengthen sanctions," Shinzo Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party leader, said in a Nov. 2 campaign speech in Oita.
He said the international community would punish Pyongyang if it goes ahead with the launch.
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