- Japan - missile tests - North Korea - nuclear weapons
AFP - North Korea's military threatened Thursday to attack Japan if it makes any attempt to shoot down a satellite that the communist state is planning to launch imminently.
"Our revolutionary armed forces... will not hesitate to mount retaliatory strikes if hostile forces show the slightest signs of moving to shoot down our satellite," said a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff carried by official media.
"If Japan loses its senses and carries out the shooting of our peaceful satellite, the people's army will deliver storms of fire in retaliatory strikes not only against already-deployed anti-missile weaponry but Japan's key facilities."
The statement on the official Korean Central News Agency also told the United States to "immediately withdraw the armed forces it has deployed if it wants to avoid damage."
The communist state has announced it will send up a communications satellite between April 4-8 as part of a peaceful space programme.
The United States and its Asian allies say this is a pretext to test a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which could in theory reach Alaska or Hawaii, in violation of UN resolutions.
Japan has deployed anti-missile systems to try to bring down the rocket should it start falling toward Japanese territory, but the United States says it does not intend to try an intercept.
Japan has dispatched three Aegis destroyers, two of them fitted with ballistic missile interceptors, to waters around its islands, as well as Patriot guided-missile units to select locations in the country.
The US has also positioned an unspecified number of Aegis-class warships in the area and media reports say South Korea has sent an Aegis destroyer.
The North has previously warned that any interception will mean war.