Japan Puts Military on Alert for Possible N. Korea Missile Launch

TOKYO (Reuters) -
A rocket is launched during a demonstration of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launching system attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) at an unknown location, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A rocket is launched during a demonstration of a new large-caliber multiple rocket launching system in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22. (Reuters/KCNA)

Japan put its military on alert on Monday for a possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, ordering naval destroyers and anti-ballistic missile Patriot batteries to be ready to shoot down any projectile heading for Japan.

A government official confirmed that an order was issued. The official declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The order was first reported by state broadcaster NHK. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense earlier declined to comment, as did South Korea’s defense ministry.

Japan has put its anti-ballistic missile forces on alert at least twice this year after detecting signs of launches by North Korea.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and has followed that with test launches of various missiles.

Japan has advanced Aegis vessels in the Sea of Japan that are able to track multiple targets and are armed with SM-3 missiles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space before they re-enter the atmosphere and fall to there targets.

Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, designed to hit warheads near the ground, are deployed around Tokyo and other sites as a second and final line of defense.