Japan has alerted its military to be ready to target any possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, after indications that the country is conducting a test firing.
Earlier this month, tensions mounted in the East Asia region, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, this time of what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.
A missile test, after the nuclear test would raise awareness that North Korea attempts to fit nuclear warheads on its missiles, would pave the way for the country to launch air strikes against its rival South Korea, Japan and possibly targeting as far as the US West Coast.
"Increased activity at North Korea's missile site suggests that there may be a launch in the next few weeks," said a source which was not authorised to talk to media.
A Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman could not immediately be reached for response.
Japan is more concerned that debris from a North Korean missile test could fall on its territory rather than a direct attack.
Japan’s Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani has ordered Aegis destroyers that operate in the Sea of Japan to repel any North Korean missiles coming into Japan.
Japan’s military would be able to track multiple targets and possessed SM-3 missiles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space, before they re-enter the atmosphere strike their targets.
It also has a patriot PAC-3 missile batteries near Tokyo and other sites to provide a last line of defence, as warheads close to the ground.
North Korea said on Jan. 6 that it exploded a hydrogen bomb, although the United States and other governments and experts voiced scepticism that it had made such a technological advance.
North Korea last conducted a long-range rocket launch in late 2012, successfully putting into orbit an object it claimed was a communications satellite, in what experts saw as part of an effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).