Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed towards Guam, says Defence Minister

Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera attends a news conference at Defence Ministry in Tokyo.
Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera attends a news conference at Defence Ministry in Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP ) - Japan could legally intercept a North Korean missile headed towards Guam, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Thursday (Aug 10) in remarks reported by Kyodo news service.

Mr Onodera told a lower house of parliament committee that Japan would be allowed to hit a missile headed towards the US Pacific territory if it was judged to be an existential threat to Japan, Kyodo said.

This is a reiteration of the Japanese government's position.

Experts say Japan does not currently have the capability to shoot down a missile flying over its territory headed for Guam.

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The Japanese government also said on Thursday that it "can never tolerate" provocations from North Korea after the country's military said it was finalising a plan to launch missiles towards Guam that would fly over Japan.

"North Korea's provocative actions, including this time, are obviously provocative to the region including Japan as well as to the security of the international community," Mr Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief government spokesman, told reporters. "We can never tolerate this."

Japan has in the past vowed to shoot down North Korean missiles or rockets that threaten to hit its territory, though Mr Suga declined to disclose details about its strategy this time.

But the Self-Defence Forces, the country's military, will "take necessary measures", he said.

"It's very important to maintain US deterrent power as the security situation in the region is extremely severe," he added. "(US) President (Donald) Trump has said all options are on the table and the government welcomes that policy."

Mr Suga said Japan and the US are "closely consulting with each other" and will hold a meeting of their foreign and defence ministers on Aug 17.

He added: "We strongly urge North Korea to take seriously the strong warnings and censures that have repeatedly been made and abide by a series of UN resolutions and refrain from taking further provocative action."