N. Korea deploys jets to protect rocket

April 2, 2009 at 7:45 AM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, April 2 (UPI) -- North Korea has deployed fighter jets to guard against attempts to intercept its rocket when it launches within days, South Korean officials said Thursday.

Along with the deployment came a warning that North Korea will "mercilessly deal deadly blows" against anyone trying to interfere with the launch of what Pyongyang says is a communications satellite, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. Western leaders believe the launch is a test-firing of North Korea's missile technology. The launch is scheduled sometime between Saturday and Wednesday.

"We are closely monitoring the movement of the jets," a South Korean air force commander told Yonhap. He didn't disclose how many or when the MiG-23s were deployed near the Musudan-ri launch site on North Korea's coast.

North Korea's official news agency repeated warnings that the country would attack Japan's weapons if Japan attempts to intercepts the satellite, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Japan ordered its military to intercept debris of the rocket in case the firing failed and fell in Japanese territory.

Japan, South Korea and the United States deployed destroyers to the East Sea, stressing they didn't plan to intercept the rocket unless populations are threatened.

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