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Japan threatens to shoot down North Korean rocket

Japan is preparing its missile defense systems to shoot down a long-range North Korean rocket, whose launch is planned for next month, should it threaten Japanese territory.

NKorea to launch rocketEnlarge
This picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on April 9, 2009, shows a Unha-2 rocket launch. The country said it would launch another rocket into orbit next month. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan is preparing its missile defense systems to shoot down a long-range North Korean rocket, whose launch is planned for next month, should it threaten Japanese territory, the BBC reported.

Japanese Defense Minister Nokia Tank announced today that Japan is readying Aegis-class warships and PAC-3 surface to air missiles.

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It is understood the defense systems could be deployed near the southern island of Okinawa, where Tokyo believes the missile may pass over its airspace.

North Korea has told the UN's International Maritime Organization that the first stage of the rocket will fall in international waters between China and South Korea, while the second stage should land 118 miles east of the Philippines, Agence France Press reported.

Meanwhile China called for restraint, urging all parties to “refrain from actions that would complicate the issue," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

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The move comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned North Korea that a rocket launch could discourage international aid donors.

"Such an act would undermine recent positive diplomatic progress and, in its effect on international donors, would likely worsen the humanitarian situation inside the country," Ban said in a speech in Singapore.

North Korea, which has nuclear arms, has said the rocket will be used put a satellite into orbit. It said the event would mark the 100th birthday of North Korea’s late Great Leader Kim Il Sung, the BBC reported.

The United States and South Korea, among other nations, see the rocket launch as a pretext for a long-range missile test banned by the UN.

World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are due to meet in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Monday for a summit focused on nuclear terrorism, at which they are expected to discuss the North’s atomic program.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120323/japan-shoot-down-north-korea-rocket