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Japan fires off mixed messages over missile t -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Japanese Government is struggling to co-ordinate its response to North Korea's
announcement that it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite within the next fortnight.

The United States and the Japanese governments say this is merely a cover for North Korea to test
fire a ballistic missile.

And Tokyo immediately warned that it would blow any North Korean rocket that came near its
territory out of the sky.

But that threat has been weakened by suggestions from a senior Japanese official that the rocket
will be almost impossible to intercept.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

MARK WILLACY: In the corridors of power in Tokyo, the clock is ticking down to North Korea's
threatened rocket launch.

The Stalinist state has told aviation and shipping agencies that it plans to fire the rocket
between the 4th and the 8th of April - in other words, within two weeks.

The Japanese have had plenty of warning and so they've moved two Aegis destroyers equipped with
interceptor missiles into the Sea of Japan.

And for good measure, the United States also has two destroyers there - watching and waiting.

The Japanese Government has warned it will shoot the North Korean rocket down, if it threatens to
fall on its land or sea territory - a move Pyongyang has warned would be an act of war.

But an unnamed senior Japanese official has told several media outlets in Tokyo that intercepting
the rocket will be almost impossible. In his or her words you can't shoot a pistol bullet down with
a pistol.

Japan's Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada is a little more confident.

(Yasukazu Hamada speaking)

YASUKAZU HAMADA (translated): The self-defence forces have been thorough in their preparations. I
think it is possible to shoot down the missile.

MARK WILLACY: Japan has carried out two missile interception tests - one in September last year was
successful, another two months later failed.

While Japan's Defence Minister is talking tough, the country's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone
is taking a more diplomatic approach.

(Hirofumi Nakasone speaks)

HIROFUMI NAKASONE (translated): I acknowledge that intercepting a missile is not easy. Japan has
never shot down a missile before and it is unclear how and where the missile would be flying. The
Government would do all it can until the last minute to stop North Korea from launching the
missile.

MARK WILLACY: Japan has just 10 days of diplomacy left before North Korea potentially starts the
ignition sequence on this rocket.

If Pyongyang does fire it and it approaches Japanese territory, Tokyo will have to decide if it's
prepared to do something it's never done in anger - to shoot the rocket down and risk confrontation
with North Korea.

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for The World Today.