A Japanese naval transport ship has delivered Patriot missile interceptor systems to the southern island of Ishigaki to counter any threat posed by North Korea’s planned rocket launch, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
The JDS Kunisaki delivered two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems to Ishigaki, which is located about 400 km southwest of Okinawa. Patriots will also be deployed on Okinawa.
North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported last week that a Kwangmyongsong-3 Earth observation satellite will be launched by an Unha-3 carrier rocket from the Sohae Space Centre between Dec 10 and 22.
The Japanese military maintains that its air defence capabilities are being readied not to shoot down the Korean rocket, but to destroy any spacecraft elements or debris that might threaten Japanese territory if the rocket deviates from its planned trajectory.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported earlier Wednesday that North Korea completed pre-launch assembly of all three stages of the long-range rocket.
The launch will be North Korea’s second this year. A previous launch in April failed when the rocket, carrying a Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, crashed into the Yellow Sea minutes after liftoff.
Pyongyang notified the UN's International Maritime Organization about the launch Monday. According to the preliminary coordinates, the rocket's first stage will fall into the Yellow Sea between the Korean Peninsula and China, and the second stage separation will take place 136 km east of the Philippines.
North Korea maintains it wants to put satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes, while the international community suspects the launches could be a cover for a programme to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly urged North Korea Tuesday to reconsider its decision to launch a rocket which would be "a clear violation" of UN sanctions.