Tokyo began deploying warships on Thursday in anticipation of a rocket launch by North Korea later this month, media reports said.
Japan has sited three Aegis-class air defense ships - the Kongo, Myoko and Chokai - in Japanese territorial waters, to intercept the missile or any debris from it if it threatens Japanese territory, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday.
Land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles have also been delivered to Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture. Japan’s Defense Ministry said it plans to deploy the PAC-3 interceptors in several different locations - Naha and Nanjo on Okinawa Island, Ishigaki Island and Miyako Island.
The Japanese military maintains its air defense systems are not being readied to shoot down the Korean rocket, but to protect its territory in case it should pose a threat.
Last weekend North Korea said it would launch the rocket between December 10 and 22.
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 program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
All three stages of the rocket have already been set up on the launch pad, South Korean media reported earlier.
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