Because of the growing uncertainty and tension regarding the North Korean ballistic missile launch, Japan’s military and defense forces remain on high alert practically round the clock. Unlike before when the missile launch date and its projected trajectory were known quantities, the Japanese defense authorities will only have a very short amount of time to determine where the missile is headed.
For this reason, the Japanese government is looking at all possible scenarios, including missile targets in either Japan or the United States, as well as in other territories. If and when North Korea finally chooses to launch a missile, the government is faced with making a very swift determination and decision whether to shoot it down or not. Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has already issued a standing order for the Japan Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any incoming ballistic missile bound for any location within the country.
The main challenge is that North Korea’s Musudan mid-range missile – the model they are assumed to be preparing for launch – has a potential range enough to be able to hit almost any point in Japan and theoretically, United States bases in Guam as well. After a launch, there will only be a few minutes available to determine where the missile is going to hit.
The situation remains sketchy, but a number of information and data sources will be available after missile launch to help determine its target – namely, U.S. early warning satellites, 3 groups of Aegis-equipped warships from Japan, U.S. and South Korea, and ground-based radar stations. The countries involved have already committed their plans of action upon any North Korean ballistic missile launch. If the missile is targeted outside of Japanese territory, Japan will not be shooting it down, but will continue to monitor the situation. If any U.S. territory is targeted, including Guam and any U.S. military base, the U.S. military said that it would intercept, even also committing to protect its allies Japan and South Korea by intercepting missiles targeted to them as well.
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