SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has threatened to shoot down
any Japanese planes that enter its airspace, accusing Tokyo of spying near one
of its missile launch sites.

The North has designated a no-sail zone off its
eastern coast from June 25 to July 10 for military drills, raising concerns that
it might test-fire short- or mid-range missiles in the coming days, in violation
of a U.N. resolution.

North Korea’s air force said
Japan’s E-767 surveillance aircraft conducted aerial espionage near the
Musudan-ri missile site on its northeast coast Wednesday and Thursday.

The military “will not tolerate even a bit the aerial espionage by the
warmongers of the Japanese aggression forces but mercilessly shoot down any
plane intruding into the territorial air of the (North)
even 0.001 mm,” the air force said in a statement carried Saturday by the
country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

An official from Japan’s Defense Ministry said the country’s planes regularly
gather information on North Korea
but declined to comment on the types of planes used or the locations monitored.
He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing government policy.

The threat against alleged Japanese aerial espionage is rare, though the
North has regularly complained of U.S. spy missions in
its airspace.

Japan is very sensitive to North Korea’s missile programs, as its islands lie within easy range.
In 1998, a North Korean missile flew over Japan’s main
island. Tokyo has since spent billions of dollars on developing a missile shield
with the United States and has launched a series of spy satellites primarily to
watch developments in North Korea.

But in April, another rocket flew over Japan’s main island, drawing a strong
protest from Tokyo. Pyongyang claims it put a satellite into orbit, while the
U.S. and its allies say it was really a test of the country’s long-range missile
technology.

The launch was one of a series of missile tests in recent months, and the
communist regime further raised tensions by conducting a second underground
nuclear test in May. Its actions have drawn international condemnation and new
U.N. sanctions.


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