Japanese Defence Minister Naoki Tanaka said Monday he might order the military to destroy a North Korean rocket if it passes through the country’s airspace.

“I am considering ordering the Self-Defence Forces to shoot down (the rocket),” Mr. Tanaka told a parliament session.

North Korea said Friday it planned to launch an observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-3, borne by the Unha-3 rocket, between April 12 and 16 to mark the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

The report sparked condemnation from the United States, South Korea and Japan amid concerns the launch could be used to test ballistic missile technology.

Pyongyang agreed on February 29 to stop activities relating to its nuclear weapons programme, including long-range missile tests, as part of a deal with Washington in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid.

“We will take the (necessary) procedures in the event of a contingency that threatens our country’s security,” Mr. Tanaka said.

He added that the ministry might deploy Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors and Aegis-equipped destroyers.

Mr. Tanaka said Tokyo would continue to work closely with other countries to obtain more information about the planned launch.

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