* Japan to strike if fears missile might hit its territory
* Aegis carrier ordered to prepare intercept
* Fresh tensions come amid sabre-rattling, renewed talks
(Adds conditions that would prompt intercept; recent
By Nobuhiro Kubo
TOKYO, April 5 Japan will strike any North
Korean ballistic missile that threatens to hit Japan in the
coming weeks after Pyongyang recently fired medium-range
missiles, a government source said on Saturday.
Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera issued the order, which
took effect on Thursday and runs through April 25, the day that
marks the founding of North Korea's army, the source told
Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Following the order, meant "to prepare for any additional
missile launches," a destroyer was dispatched to the Sea of
Japan and will fire if North Korea launches a missile that Tokyo
deems in danger of striking or falling on Japanese territory,
the source said.
Tensions have been building between North Korea and its
neighbours since Pyongyang - in an apparent show of defiance -
fired two Rodong missiles on March 26, just as the leaders of
Japan, South Korea and the United States were sitting down to
discuss containing the North Korean nuclear threat.
That first firing in four years of mid-range missiles that
can hit Japan followed a series of short-range rocket launches
over the past two months. The Rodong ballistic missiles fell
into the sea after flying 650 km (400 miles), short of a maximum
range thought to be some 1,300 km, Japan said.
Since then, North Korea has rattled sabres by firing
artillery rounds into South Korean waters, prompting the South
to fire back; South Korea has test-fired a new ballistic missile
with a range of 500 km; and Pyongyang has threatened an
unspecified "new form" of nuclear test.
At the same time, Japan and North Korea resumed talks -
suspended since Pyongyang test-launched a long-range missile
more than a year ago - over the North's nuclear and missile
programmes, as well as the fate of Japanese abducted in the
1970s and 1980s to help train North Korean spies.
Onodera has avoided publicly announcing the new
missile-intercept order so as not to put a chill on those talks,
Japanese media said.
He also did not deploy Patriot missile batteries that would
be the last line of defence against incoming warheads, the
source told Reuters.
Japanese Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan are equipped
with advanced radar equipment able to track multiple targets and
carry missiles designed to take out targets at the edge of
(Writing by Tim Kelly and William Mallard; Editing by Raissa