TOKYO — The Japanese government on Thursday ordered the Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missiles approaching Japan, several government sources said Saturday.
To avoid inciting fear among the Japanese public or provoking Pyongyang, the government has not officially made public the destruction order issued to the SDF.
The order was made by Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera based on the Self-Defense Forces Law.
Upon receiving the order, the SDF ordered the deployment of Aegis-equipped vessels with SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles in the Sea of Japan, making preparations to intercept ballistic missiles with Japan’s missile defense system if they are deemed to be on a course for Japan’s territory.
The SDF, however, has not deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 units, which would shoot down ballistic missiles from the ground, as the PAC-3 units tend to easily attract the public eye, the sources said.
It is the fifth order of its kind that the government has issued. Three of the past four orders were issued in response to North Korea’s prior notices of their launches. Another was issued last April when there was no prior notice from Pyongyang.
The order was never officially made public.
An imminent North Korean launch of ballistic missiles is not expected, but the government apparently judged it necessary to give such an order as a precaution, particularly in light of the visit to Japan of U.S. President Barack Obama later this month.