North Korea's military has threatened to attack "major targets" in Japan if Tokyo tries to shoot down a satellite it intends to launch as soon as this weekend. "If Japan recklessly 'intercepts' the DPRK's (North's) satellite for peaceful purposes, the KPA will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets," said a statement from the Korean People's Army (KPA).
Japan, South Korea and the United States see the North's plan to launch a communications satellite between April 4-8 as a disguised test of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile which could in theory reach Alaska or Hawaii. Tokyo may toughen existing bilateral sanctions by halting all exports to Pyongyang and tightening restrictions on financial transactions, said government spokesman Takeo Kawamura. The North has begun fuelling its rocket in a sign it could launch as early as this weekend, CNN quoted a senior US military official as saying. There was no immediate confirmation.
Japan and the United States have deployed missile-hunting Aegis destroyers to monitor the launch. Tokyo has also deployed Patriot guided-missile units on land, and says it will try to bring down the rocket should it start falling toward Japanese territory. US President Barack Obama and South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-Bak today promised a firm and "stern" response to any North Korean rocket launch after meeting on the sidelines of the G20 economic crisis summit in London. *AFP