Two Maritime Self-Defence Force transport ships have left the MSDF base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, carrying missile interceptors for Okinawa Prefecture to prepare for North Korea’s planned rocket launch. The ships left the base yesterday.

The ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors are to be deployed at several locations in Okinawa, after the ships — the Kunisaki and Osumi — arrive there in a few days.

North Korea announced Saturday that it plans to launch an “earth observation satellite” sometime between December 10 and 22, following an unsuccessful attempt to launch a long-range rocket in April.

North Korea also said the rocket will take a southern trajectory after the launch from a site in the north-western part of the Korean Peninsula.

The flight path could include areas around Okinawa.

The transfer of the PAC-3s came after Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto issued an order Saturday to prepare for the destruction of the rocket if necessary in the event the launch takes place.

Defence Ministry officials visited Okinawa yesterday to brief prefectural and municipal officials about the interceptor deployment plan.

PAC-3s were deployed in four municipalities in Okinawa when North Korea unsuccessfully launched a rocket in April.

Referring to the government’s failure in April to immediately provide information about the rocket launch, Keishun Koja, mayor of Nanjo which hosted an interceptor in April, requested quick information disclosure this time by the ministry.

In the city of Ishigaki, Okinawa, where the PAC-3 was also deployed in April, the municipal assembly adopted a resolution against the North’s planned rocket launch, saying the move is “extremely regrettable and significantly impairs overall peace and safety in East Asia“.

In its failed launch in April, North Korea plotted a similar route, and the Japanese government deployed PAC-3s in Okinawa Island, Miyako Island and Ishigaki Island in addition to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

(This article was published on December 4, 2012)
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