(2nd LD) Defense chief orders 'active' military response to N. Korean missile
(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments in paras 4, 9-10)
SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Han Min-koo ordered his troops on Friday to respond "actively" to North Korea's upcoming long-range rocket launch.
He issued the order in an emergency meeting with key military officials that convened as the North is preparing to launch what it claims is a space vehicle in the coming weeks. It is widely viewed as another intercontinental ballistic missile test, though.
"Now that North Korea has announced the plan to launch a long-range missile following its recent nuclear test, our military should maintain exceptional mental and physical combat readiness," the minister said. He also ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff officials to "react actively" to the missile launch.
North Korea appears to have made "considerable" strides in its preparations for the launch and South Korea is maintaining its surveillance accordingly, Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said in a background briefing.
Earlier this week, the North informed United Nations agencies of its plan to launch a satellite between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25.
Han said South Korea and the U.S. will mobilize surveillance assets "effectively" to minimize any lapse in monitoring the missile launch, according to a statement from the ministry.
He also instructed the officials to stand ready to catch any prior signs of the imminent launch.
During the meeting, the top defense official also held a video conference with the captain of the Navy's Aegis destroyer which has been sent to detect and trace the upcoming missile launch.
South Korea will shoot down any North Korean missile or its debris if it falls on South Korea's territory, the ministry spokesman said a day earlier.
The military has put its Aegis destroyers, Green Pine radar and Peace Eye early warning aircraft on surveillance missions as the North's announced launch time draws near.