TOKYO Japan will clear the way for the deployment of ballistic missile interceptors as it prepares for the possibility of a planned North Korean rocket launch falling onto its territory, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.
Japanese law allows it to shoot down any dangerous object falling toward the country, excluding aircraft, although the planned North Korean rocket would not hit Japanese territory if it follows its expected path.
North Korea has given notice to global agencies of its plans to launch a satellite between April 4 and 8, presenting a challenge to U.S. President Barack Obama and allies who see the launch as a disguised missile test.
Japan's cabinet plans to approve preparatory steps to destroy the rocket if it falls onto Japanese territory, Kyodo said, citing government sources.
Cabinet approval, which may come by the end of the month, would clear the way for Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada to order the deployment of ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors, Kyodo said.
Cabinet approval is required in Japan, where military activity is strictly limited under its pacifist constitution.
A defense ministry spokesman declined comment.
Japan is also considering deploying two high-tech Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying Standard Missile-3 ballistic missile interceptors, one to the Sea of Japan and the other to the Pacific Ocean, Kyodo added.
Pyongyang has said the first stage of the rocket would splash down in the Sea of Japan, while the second stage would splash down in the Pacific Ocean.
(Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)