Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka says he has issued an order for Japan's military to shoot down a North Korean rocket, if necessary, to protect Japan from being hit.
The move, announced on March 30, comes amid rising tensions over North Korea's announced plan to launch a rocket in mid-April to carry a satellite into orbit.
Japan and its allies South Korea and the United States say they are concerned the launch could be a pretext for a long-range missile test by the nuclear-armed North.
The United Nations Security Council has banned North Korea from conducting such tests as part of sanctions aimed at compelling the North to roll back its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea has refused to cancel the launch of what it calls a "peaceful satellite."
Based on reporting by AFP and AP