Japan readies military to shoot down North Korean rocket

Japan's Defence Minister Gen Nakatani inspects an annual new year military exercise by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force 1st Airborne Brigade at Narashino exercise field in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, Japan January 10, 2016.REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani on Wednesday ordered ballistic missile defense units, including Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan and Patriot missile batteries onshore, to be ready to shoot down any North Korean rocket that threatened Japan.

Japan’s decision to put its military on heightened alert comes after North Korea told the United Nations it plans to launch a satellite as early as next week, a move that could advance Pyongyang’s long-range missile technology following its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

South Korea said earlier on Wednesday that the planned satellite launch was really a plan to launch a long-range missile and warned that the North will pay a “severe price” if it goes ahead.

Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry