North Korea Announces ‘Satellite’ Launch Sometime Between May 27 and June 4; Japan Calls for Suspension of Launch

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
North Korean flags

The government said Monday that it received a report from North Korea outlining plans to launch a rocket carrying a ‘satellite’ sometime between midnight Sunday and midnight June 3.

In November last year, North Korea notified the Japanese government of similar plans, and a launch using ballistic missile technology followed.

As with that launch, the upcoming projectile will likely enter Okinawa Prefecture’s airspace. The Japan Coast Guard accordingly issued a navigation warning and advised Japanese and foreign ships to be on the alert.

North Korea designated three zones where debris from the rocket may fall: two sea areas in the Yellow Sea and one in the Pacific Ocean east of Luzon, the Philippines.

All the areas are outside Japan’s exclusive economic zones.

North Korea’s authorities notified the Japan Coast Guard about the launch via email shortly after midnight Sunday, after the beginning of the designated period for the launch.

Before dawn on Monday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida relayed three points to the relevant government ministries and agencies: (1) the government will make all efforts to collect and analyze information and make appropriate information available to the public; (2) the government will cooperate with the United States, South Korea and other concerned countries to strongly demand that North Korea abort the launch; and (3) the government will adopt all possible measures in the event of an unpredictable development.

High-level diplomatic authorities in Japan, the United States and South Korea held a telephone discussion and shared the view that Pyongyang’s planned launch clearly violates a U.N. Security Council resolution prohibiting North Korea from conducting launches using ballistic missile technology.

When North Korea announced in May last year that it would fire a missile that it claimed was for launching a satellite, then Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada issued a shoot-down order to the Self-Defense Forces. The order remains in effect.

Accordingly, at least one of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis-equipped destroyers has been indefinitely deployed to the Sea of Japan carrying the Standard Missile 3 (SM3) type of interceptor missiles.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi at a press conference Monday morning said the government had submitted to North Korea a demand for the satellite launch to be aborted via a diplomatic channel in Beijing.

Hayashi criticized Pyongyang, saying, “If North Korea forcibly conducts a launch using missile technology, it will constitute a serious, provocative action that threatens Japan’s national security.”