North Korea announced that it plans to launch a satellite at the beginning of April. The Japanese Jiji Press agency last week cited diplomats in Beijing as saying the launch would go ahead on April 4 barring adverse weather conditions or last-minute repairs.
"It's important to deal with and eliminate the North Korean projectile should it threaten the people's security and safety by falling into our airspace, waters or soil," Kyodo news agency quoted Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada as saying.
According to North Korean experts, the first stage of the rocket is due to fall in the Sea of Japan, 130 kilometers (93 miles) off the coast of Japan near the Akita Prefecture, and the second stage is due to come down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
This is the first time Japan's government has given the order to destroy an object since anti-missile shields were put in place in 2003. The country has also deployed two Aegis destroyer vessels equipped with standard missile-3 interceptors in the Sea of Japan.
Four Patriot guided-missile units will also be deployed on the ground in the prefectures of Akita and Iwate, as well as around the capital, including the Defense Ministry headquarters near the Imperial Palace.
Pyongyang announced last month plans to launch what it described as a communications satellite from the newly constructed Musudan-ri launch site on the country's northeast coast. However, the U.S., Japan and South Korea believe that the secretive communist state is in fact planning to test its Taepodong-2 long-range missile.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned North Korea that the firing of a missile of any kind would be a "provocative act" that could harm the six-party negotiations on the country's denuclearization.
Speaking to journalists in Mexico City this week, Clinton said the launch would be a violation of a UN Security Council resolution banning North Korea from ballistic activities.
"We believe it is important not to draw hasty conclusions, but to work from facts, and not to pass judgment before the event has taken place," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Thursday, urging Pyongyang however to comply with the UN resolution.
The talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan, came to a standstill last December, over North Korea's refusal to allow international inspections at nuclear sites.