patriot missiles japan
© Kyodo / Reuters
'Your military belongs to US!' Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles stand at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, January 29, 2016.
Japan says it has deployed two Patriot missile interceptors in Tokyo to counter North Korea's activity. The deployment comes amid reports that Pyongyang is preparing for a space rocket launch.

Two ground-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) launchers were installed near the Defense Ministry's headquarters on Saturday morning, according to the Japan News website. The Ministry said they had been set up as a safeguard in case it became necessary to shoot down a North Korean missile or any debris that might fall from one onto Japanese territory.

The ground-to-air units are to be placed mainly in the Okinawa Prefecture and Tokyo metropolitan area, as there are fears that these are the two locations North Korean missiles might hit.

Earlier this week, Japan's Defense Minister, General Nakatani, announced that he had issued a "destructive measures order," which authorizes the country's armed forces to destroy long-range ballistic missiles if they pose any danger to Japan. The announcement was made at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday.

Japan's Air Self-Defense Force is not the only Japanese military branch boosting its capabilities. The country's Marine Self-Defense Force is also increasing its preparedness by deploying Aegis-equipped destroyers in the Sea of Japan and other areas, the Japan News reported.

"We cannot rule out the possibility [North Korea] will do something provocative without prior warning, such as launching a ballistic missile. The government's readiness will be rock-solid to protect the people's lives," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

North Korea has been under close scrutiny by the international community since Pyongyang claimed that on January 6 it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb in its fourth nuclear test.

Concerns that North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile surfaced in media reports citing Japanese and US officials on Friday. US sources told the Kyodo news agency that satellite imagery indicates an imminent space launch.