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Japanese Place Self-Defense Forces on Alert After North Korean Launch Warnings

Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae inspect the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite, in Pyongyang, North Korea on May 16, 2023. KCNA Photo

Japanese ballistic missile defense systems are on alert after North Korea told the Japan Coast Guard it would launch a satellite in the next two weeks, USNI News learned.

Japan’s Defense Ministry on Monday issued an order that placed its BMD-capable destroyers and Patriot PAC-3 units to destroy any North Korean missiles launched from Wednesday to June 11, if the rockets launching the supposed satellite look like they could land in Japanese territory.

The order came about after North Korea informed the Japan Coast Guard via email that it would launch a satellite sometime between May 31 and June 11. Japan is the area coordinator for NAVAREA XI, with the JCG acting as the executing agency to release navigation and safety warnings for the area.

Japan Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada in his regular press conference on Tuesday said that based on the past, North Korea’s proclamation of a satellite launch was actually a ballistic missile launch. The Japanese government’s position is that even if North Korea calls it a satellite launch, it’s still in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit any launches using ballistic missile technology.

Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Monday that even though North Korea claimed it was launching a satellite, launches using ballistic missile technology violated United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The Prime Minister’s Office also issued a statement on Monday stating that Japan would coordinate with the United States, South Korea and other concerned countries to strongly urge North Korea to not carry out the launch. It also stated that the Japan Ministry of Defense and the Japan Self-Defense Forces had been instructed to prepare to take destructive measures against any North Korean ballistic missiles.

Japan’s Defense Ministry on Monday issued a release stating that the JSDF would take measures to destroy any missiles heading toward Japanese territory by using SM-3 missiles launched from destroyers or PAC-3 missiles launched by Patriot units. The release did not state how many destroyers would deploy, though it said those destroyers would go to the East China Sea. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has eight Aegis-equipped destroyers capable of BMD tasking: four Kongo-class destroyers, 2 Atago-class destroyers and 2 Maya-class destroyers.

PAC-3 units on alert are comprised of units stationed at Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JSGDF) Naha (in Okinawa) and Yonaguni Island garrisons, Japan Air Self-Defense Force ( JASDF) Miyakojima base and the PAC-3 unit on Ishigaki Island, all of which are located in the southwest islands of Japan.

Path of People’s Liberation Army Navy warships.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense issued a news release stating that at 4 p.m. local time on Friday, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Sovremenny-class destroyer, a Jiangkai-class frigate and two Yuzhao-class amphibious ships were sighted sailing north in an area 81 miles south of Yonaguni Island. The release did not include the usual pennant numbers of the ship, nor did it include photos of the ships, as per the norm for JSO releases. The PLAN ships then sailed between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan and were later seen sailing north in an area 50 miles west of Uotsuri Island, according to the release, which also said that destroyer JS Sawagiri (DD-157) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa shadowed the PLAN ships.

On Tuesday, the JSO said Russian Navy corvettes RFS Sovetskaya Gavan (350) and RFS Koryeyets (390) were sighted sailing southeast in an area 19 miles north of Cape Soya, Hokkaido. Subsequently the two Russian corvettes sailed east through La Pérouse Strait. Destroyer JS Yudachi (DD-103) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base on the main island of Honshu monitored the Russian ships, according to the release.

Russian corvettes RFS Sovetskaya Gavan (350) and RFS Koryeyets (390)

Also on Tuesday, French Navy frigate FS Lorraine (D657) docked at the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal on a port visit as part of its Indo-Pacific deployment. French Navy Chief Admiral Pierre Vandier at a news conference in the United Kingdom said the frigate would integrate with a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group during its deployment, Naval News reported. Vandier did not specify which CSG the French frigate would integrate with, but both the Nimitz and Reagan CSGs are currently operating around Japan.

Earlier on Monday Lorraine carried out the France-Japan bilateral exercise “Oguri-Verny 23-2” with destroyer JS Yamagiri (DD-152) in the waters south of the Kanto region on the main island of Honshu, according to a Tuesday JMSDF release. The release said the two ships conducted tactical maneuvers as part of the exercise.

Categories: Budget Industry, China, Foreign Forces, News & Analysis, Surface Forces
Dzirhan Mahadzir

About Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.