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Defense

Japan's public unfazed by North Korea's threats

Anti-missile batteries have been installed in central Tokyo and warships are being deployed to defend Japan, but most people think Kim Jong Un is not sufficiently reckless as to launch an attack on his neighbors.

From office blocks and apartment buildings in the Ichigaya district of central Tokyo, the pair of squat, olive-green missile batteries is clearly visible in the grounds of the Ministry of Defense.

Braced on extended legs and with their multiple launchers raised to the sky, the batteries' launch tubes are still under their protective covers. But the interior of the tubes, where the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles sit in readiness, will only be revealed should North Korea take drastic steps that threaten the security of Japan and the Japanese people, the government has said.

And while they are keeping a watchful eye on events on the Korean Peninsula, people here are not too concerned about the vitriol emanating from Pyongyang on an almost daily basis.

©Kyodo/MAXPPP - 28/12/2012 ; TOKYO, Japan - New Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is interviewed by Japanese media organizations in Tokyo on Dec. 28, 2012. (Kyodo)

Japan's military is at its highest level of readiness for any threat: Itsunori Onodera

The regime of Kim Jong Un is more bluster than a serious threat to the security of the region.

"The government really has no choice but to take the situation seriously and that is probably why they have stationed these missiles here, but I really don't think North Korea will do anything so reckless that it would cause a conflict," said Haruyuki Yoshida, a businessman on his way to work in Tokyo on Wednesday, April 10.

Previous missile launch

"I would not say that Japanese people feel concern over these latest threats, but we must remember that North Korea did launch a missile last year - although they called it a rocket to put a satellite into orbit," he pointed out.

"I guess that shows they do have the capability to fire a missile, but I cannot think they would deliberately fire it at Japan," he added. "They must know what would happen if they did something like that."

The Japanese government is taking no chances, however, and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera announced on Wednesday morning that the nation's military is at its highest level of readiness for any threat.

"We have been on full alert since we deployed military units, and so we will maintain this sense of vigilance," the minister told reporters.

In a second press conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "We are making the utmost efforts to protect our people's lives and to ensure their safety."

AJapan Self-Defence Forces soldier stands guard near Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japan's Defense Ministry has prepared itself for an attack

As well as deploying Patriot batteries in central Tokyo, others have been sited at Self-Defense Forces bases in Saitama and Chiba Prefectures to protect the capital, while more have been sited in Gifu Prefecture and Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of the US forces in Japan.

Japan is also stationing state-of-the-art Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan, tasked with knocking out any missiles that are launched from North Korea and approach Japanese airspace.

Verbal attack on Japan

On Monday, North Korea's state-run media launched a stinging attack on the Japanese government for criticizing Pyongyang's "provocative remarks and actions" and identifying targets in Japan that included the US Navy's base at Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, and its air bases at Misawa, in Aomori Prefecture, and Okinawa, in the far south.

"The Japanese authorities are talking [about] this or that in a bid to shift the responsibility for the escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula on to the DPRK," the North Korean Rodong Sinmun newspaper stated in an editorial. "This is nothing but a base ploy to protect their US master.

"The Japanese reactionaries, however, seem pleased with the US desperate efforts to ignite a nuclear war in Korea while persistently following a hostile policy toward the DPRK," it added. "We once again warn Japan against blindly toeing the US policy. It will have to pay a dear price for its imprudent behavior."

But Japanese people have heard the warnings before.

"I'm not too worried as I don't think they will do anything really silly," said Kanako Ooko, who lives some 30 km from the Yokosuka naval base. "If they did try anything serious, they would very quickly become the target, so they would only be killing themselves.

"They are making all this noise to show the rest of the world how powerful they are, but it's a very strange way of trying to win respect from their neighbors," she said.

'Ignore them'

Rocket launches in North Korea (Archivfoto vom 05.01.2009). (Photo: KCNA +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++ )

Though North Korea has launched rockets before, many in Japan do not think they will attack

"Actually, I don't agree with the government deploying the Patriot missiles in Tokyo because it will probably only make the North Koreans happy because they will think they have frightened us," Ooko said. "We should just ignore them."

Foreign residents of Tokyo share a similar opinion of the North Korean regime.

"We're not really concerned because from everything I've read about their technology it's a bit hit-and-miss that it will even get off the ground, let alone hit a target thousands of miles away," said Colin Shea, a British businessman living in Tokyo with his family.

"I think they will just keep ratcheting up the tension because they want something in return from the international community, but if things did turn violent then I'm pretty sure that North Korea would be destroyed and not many could argue that they had not caused their own downfall," he added.

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