Close on the heels of Japan, South Korea is also gearing up to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it violates its air space during a launch planned for next month, reports quoting the Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The South Korean and U.S. military are closely monitoring activity at the North's Tongchang-ri base, a Ministry spokesman said, a day after Seoul confirmed the main body of a rocket had been moved to the site in the Communist neighbor's northwest.
The spokesman said Seoul was concerned that the first stage of the rocket, scheduled to drop into the Yellow Sea between South Korea and China, might fall onto the South's territory. "We are preparing measures to track the missile's trajectory and shoot it down if it, by any chance, deviates from the planned route and falls into our territory," he said giving no other details about the preparations to shoot down the North Korean rocket.
Japan had already made it clear that its defense forces would shoot down the rocket if it strayed into its air space.
Nuclear-armed North Korea has announced that it will launch the rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12-16 marking the 100th birth anniversary of the country's founding President Kim il-sung, which the West suspects is really aimed at testing a long-range ballistic missile. However, the reclusive country, which has recently witnessed a leadership change, insists it has a right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes.
The launch will cost the impoverished North at least $800 million, the spokesman said, reiterating Seoul's apprehension that it is intended to test a long-range missile to carry nuclear warheads.
U.S. President Barack Obama, now in the South Korean capital to attend a nuclear security summit, said on Sunday that the launch would jeopardize a recent U.S. offer for food aid in return for a partial nuclear freeze and a missile test moratorium. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak discussed the issue in talks on Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Tension is high on the Korean peninsula following the alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March 2010 by the North in which 46 sailors were killed and the shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010 killing four people. At a memorial service on Monday commemorating the second anniversary of the sinking of 'Cheonan,' some 3,000 troops, government officials and tearful family members paid tribute to the former crew of the Navy frigate.
by RTT Staff Writer
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