Two Russian anti-submarine aircraft have flown over a Japanese destroyer preparing to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it passes over Japan's territory, a Japanese TV channel reported on Wednesday, citing the country's Defense Ministry.
According to the ministry, the Il-38 planes were seen on Tuesday off the south-west coast of the largest Japanese island of Honshu, where the destroyer is currently based. The ministry said that Japanese fighters accompanied the IL-38s during their flight.
The NHK TV channel suggested that the Russian planes had been collecting information on the multi-purpose combat system Aegis which is installed on the destroyer. Russian patrol aircrafts have been spotted performing reconnaissance missions, without violating borders, off the coast of Japan since the end of March, NHK reported.
Japan has dispatched destroyers as North Korea makes final preparations for a rocket launch that could take place this week. The isolated East Asian state will launch a rocket it says will put a weather satellite into orbit to mark the 100th birthday of its late founder, Kim Il-sung. It also says the launch is in compliance with the Space Treaty, which guarantees every state the right to carry out space programs.
But the international community suspects the rocket is part of a ballistic missile program.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that any launch by North Korea would be a “serious, clear violation” of the UN Security Council resolutions.
South Korea and Japan have said they will shoot down the rocket if it threatens their territories.