Japan will clear the way for the deployment of ballistic missile interceptors as it prepares for the possibility a North Korean rocket could fall toward its territory, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.
North Korea has said it intends to launch a satellite between April 4 and 8, presenting a challenge to U.S. President Barack Obama and allies in Asia who see the plan as a disguised long-range missile test.
The plan has alarmed the region and prompted some airlines to say they will alter flight routes during the test period. The reclusive state stunned Tokyo with the launch of a rocket in 1998 that flew over Japan before dropping into the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese law allows the shooting down of dangerous objects falling toward the country, excluding aircraft. The cabinet plans to approve preparatory steps to destroy the rocket if it falls onto Japanese territory, Kyodo said, citing government sources.
South Korea’s defense minister said there was a possibility the North would use the intense attention being focused on the missile launch to mount a limited attack across the border to further escalate tension on the Korean peninsula.
The attack could be a naval, air or land strike anywhere along the armed border that divides the Korean peninsula, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee told parliament in Seoul.