- Title: JAPAN: Tokyo criticeses Pyongyang's missile statement.
- Date: 9th March 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (FILE) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE AND JAPANESE FLAG
- Embargoed: 24th March 2009 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA1V594LX2JSM5CSGR9C91K4TWF
- Story Text: Tokyo asks for Pyongyang's "self-restraint" over its missile statement.
Tokyo asked Pyongyang for "self-restraint" over a possible missile launch after North Korean state television aired statements on Monday (March 9) warning that shooting down of any of its rockets is an act of war.
The North Korean comments came as U.S. and South Korean troops began annual military drills on Monday and North Korea said it had put its armed forces on full combat readiness in response to the exercises, heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula.
"Our government strongly asks for Pyongyang's self-restraint as the kind of action North Korea is talking about would destablise the region and disrupt peace," Takeo Kawamura, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, told a news conference.
"We aren't particularly on a high alert at this point," said Kawamura. "However, our defense ministry and Self-Defense Forces is responsible for our country's security at all times so they are preparing themselves and collecting information."
The North Korean army said the drills were a "military provocation" that would only occur "on the eve of a war".
Pyongyang regularly accuses the United States and South Korea of aggressive intentions before the exercises, which have been held for years without major incident.
But North Korean media has been more strident about these drills, which come as Pyongyang is making preparations to test-fire its Taepodong-2 missile and at a time of speculation about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
North Korea has repeatedly said it was preparing to launch a satellite as part of a peaceful space programme.
Last week the unpredictable state said it could not guarantee the safety of South Korean civilian aircraft flying near its airspace. That forced several airliners to alter their routes.
The military drills are scheduled to run until March 20, and are longer and on a greater scale than in previous years.
The aim is to test the defensive readiness of the combined U.S. and South Korean forces ahead of the transfer of war-time command from the U.S. to the South Korean military in the next several years.
Troops will be mobilised throughout South Korea, including Marines conducting live-fire drills north of the capital Seoul, which is less than two hours drive from the border with North Korea.
A U.S. aircraft carrier will take part in the exercises, the U.S.
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