TOKYO: Japan was on high alert on Thursday as North Korea is set to launch a rocket despite opposition by the international
community, which sees the launch as a cover for a ballistic missile test, Kyodo News reported.
"We would like to call (on North Korea) for restraint until the very end, but we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters upon arriving at his office before 7 a.m.
North Korea has said it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite sometime between Thursday and next Monday with liftoff taking place between 7 a.m. and noon.
There is speculation that the launch will take place on the first day of that five-day period.
According to local media, Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters that the ministry and Self-Defence Forces will stay on their guard and prepare for any contingency.
Japan's Self-Defence Force had installed ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors on Okinawa, Ishigaki and Miyako islands and in Tokyo. Furthermore, three Maritime Self-Defence Force Aegis destroyers are on their way to the East China Sea, according to the ministry.
The Japanese government has been saying the rocket will "not normally fall within" Japan's territory, but preparations are being made just in case the rocket veers off from its planned trajectory.