North Korea has informed Tokyo of a satellite launch in the coming weeks, the Japan Coast Guard said Monday, a project that the Japanese government says should involve a ballistic missile launch.
Pyongyang told the Japan coast guard that a rocket would be launched between May 31 and June 11 and was expected to fall in an area near the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and east of the island of Luzon in the Philippines, a coast guard spokesman told AFP.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's office said on its Twitter account that he had given instructions about "North Korea's notification of the launch of a ballistic missile that it describes as a satellite."
北朝鮮が「衛星」と称する弾道ミサイルを発射する旨の通報に係る関連情報を掲載しました。 https://t.co/mKUVBkaCZ8 pic.twitter.com/6xvVZfwWCN
— 首相官邸(災害・危機管理情報) (@Kantei_Saigai) May 29, 2023
Kishida ordered relevant ministries and agencies to cooperate in gathering intelligence, while calling for vigilance and cooperation with Japan's allies, including the United States and South Korea, according to the tweet.
"A serious problem threatening the safety of people"
Japan's Defense Ministry responded by ordering the Air Self-Defense Force to shoot down any ballistic missiles confirmed to fall in national waters. SM-3 interceptor missiles and Patriot PAC-3 missiles will be deployed for this purpose, the Ministry of Defense said.
"Even if it is described as a satellite, a launch using ballistic missile technology would be a violation of UN security resolutions and a serious problem threatening people's safety," Kishida said.
Pyongyang has stepped up missile launches in recent months, some of which have triggered emergency alert systems in Japan. Seoul and Tokyo have been trying in recent weeks to warm up long-tense relations, including by working more closely together in the face of North Korea's military threats.
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Asked about possible negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Japanese prime minister nevertheless reiterated on Monday that Tokyo was open to discussions, adding that he wanted to make "concrete progress".
North Korea's official KCNA news agency issued a statement by North Korea's vice foreign minister that appeared to endorse a conciliatory approach to relations with Japan, an unusual stance on Pyongyang's part. If Japan avoids being "hampered by the past and seeks a solution to improve relations, there is no reason why the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, editor's note) and Japan should not meet," according to Pak Sang Gil's statement.