MANILA, Philippines – Thursday marks the start of the launch period of North Korea's rocket, that it says will put a satellite into orbit.
But the United States suspects that it is a disguised ballistic missile test.
Japan, one of North Korea's neighbors, has already deployed its defense system, threatening to shoot down the rocket or its fragments if they enter Japanese territory.
One of the rocket's boosters is projected to fall into sea near Japan.
“In 1998 missile test, North Korean rocket parts fell 60 kilometers off Japan's east coast. So that was a close call. So I think it's a reasonable thing for the Japanese government to have decided to deploy the ballistic missile defense system,” said Narushige Michishita, director of Security and International Studies Program.
Another booster is expected to hit the Philippine Sea in the northeastern part of the country.
But unlike Japan, the Philippines has no capability to shoot it down, which is why areas that will be affected by the rocket launch have been declared no-fly, no-sail, and no-fishing zones.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is on alert in case the rocket veers off course and debris hits land.
“Highly unlikely but it is probable. Ang contingency plan is pumunta ka na indoors,” said NDRRMC Director Benito Ramos.
The NDRRMC said it could take more than three hours before the rocket booster hits land or sea so there's time to avoid it.
The NDRRMC is coordinating with the Joint US Military Advisory Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Foreign Affairs Department in monitoring North Korea's rocket launch. -- ANC