Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera (C) reviews troops during an annual new year military exercise at Narashino exercise field in Funabashi, east of Tokyo January 12, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Japan has ordered a destroyer in the Sea of Japan to strike any ballistic missiles that may be launched by North Korea in the coming weeks after Pyongyang fired a Rodong medium-range missile over the sea, a government source said on Saturday.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera issued the order on Thursday, but did not make it public in order to avoid putting a chill on renewed talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang, the first in more than a year, local media reported earlier.
"The defense minister made the order from April 3rd through to the 25th to prepare for any additional missile launches," the source said.
Onodera, the source said, did not deploy Patriot missile batteries that would be the last line of defense against incoming warheads.
Media reports said the North Korean-Japanese talks in Beijing this week broke no new ground, but ended with an agreement for further meetings.
The firing of the Rodong coincided with a meeting in The Hague between US President Barack Obama and the leaders of South Korea and Japan and followed a series of short-range rocket launches.
The launch appeared to be a show of defiance by North Korea.
The missile fell into the sea after flying 650 km (400 miles), short of a maximum range thought to be some 1,300 km.
Japanese Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan are equipped with advanced radar equipment able to track multiple targets and carry missiles designed to take out targets at the edge of space.