Japan has ordered its armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory, a defense ministry spokesman said today as speculation grows Pyongyang may fire one this week.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera issued the order, which will see Aegis destroyers equipped with sea-based interceptor missiles deployed in the Sea of Japan, the defense official said.
The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order, which was issued Sunday, was routine and was being kept low-key.
The order came as a top South Korean security official said Sunday that North Korea may test-launch a missile this week, while the United States has delayed its own missile test because of soaring tensions on the peninsula.
Kim Jang-Soo, chief national security adviser to President Park Geun-Hye, said a test-launch or other provocation could come before or after Wednesday, the date by which the North has suggested that diplomats leave Pyongyang.
North Korea, incensed by UN sanctions following its nuclear and missile tests and by South Korean-US military drills, has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks.
It has also reportedly loaded two medium-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them in underground facilities near its east coast, fueling fears of an imminent launch that may further escalate tensions.