S. Korea will shoot down N. Korean rocket if necessary: ministry

February 4, 2016
A mock Scud-B missile of North Korea, left, and other South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. South Korea warned on Wednesday of "searing" consequences if North Korea doesn't abandon plans to launch a long-range rocket that critics call a banned test of ballistic missile technology.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A mock Scud-B missile of North Korea, left, and other South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. South Korea warned on Wednesday of “searing” consequences if North Korea doesn’t abandon plans to launch a long-range rocket that critics call a banned test of ballistic missile technology.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea won’t hesitate to shoot down a North Korean rocket or its debris if necessary, the Defense Ministry said Thursday, amid clear signs that the secretive neighbor’s rocket launch is imminent.

North Korea informed U.N. agencies of its plan to send a satellite into orbit between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, which is viewed as a cover for a long-range missile test.

The move added to tensions already heightened after the North’s nuclear test on Jan. 6.

“The military is ramping up its air defense operation readiness so it can intercept a missile or any debris that land in our territory or waters,” ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said in a regular briefing. “South Korea will take due measures in its self-defense rights in proportion to the level of (possible) damage or its location.”

The South Korean military and the United States Forces Korea have put their Patriot surface-to-air missiles on a combat position to guard against the possibility of a North Korean missile coming into the South Korean territory, he said.

According to the coordinates the North provided to international agencies, its multi-stage rocket, if it is fired from the northwestern Dongchang-ri launch site, will initially fly over the West Sea, drop the first stage there, and pass over the East China Sea before shedding the second stage in the Philippine Sea.

The South Korean military and USFK have mobilized all of their surveillance assets to detect and trace North Korea’s missile launch, Moon added, while also denouncing it.

“After defiantly conducting its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, it is again attempting the launch of a long-range ballistic missile disguised as a satellite launch, despite repeated warnings from us and the international community,” the spokesman said.

According to the spokesman, the communist country is “preparing for a missile launch at the Dongchang-ri site.”

Moon, however, did not provide any details of the intelligence, including how much progress has been made in the launch preparations.

A key indication would be if or when the North loads fuel into a rocket after erecting it on a launch pad.

Japan also ordered its military forces Wednesday to stand ready to intercept any North Korean missile entering the country’s territory, according to Kyodo News of Japan.

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