"Today the defence minister issued an order" to destroy such a missile if it "is confirmed that it will fall on Japanese territory," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Defence Minister Gen Nakatani issued the order, citing the "possibility that North Korea will launch a missile it calls a 'satellite' within coming days," the statement said.

The order will be carried out by Japan's ballistic missile defence system, which includes PAC-3 surface-to-air anti-ballistic missiles, and similar SM-3 systems aboard warships, the ministry said.

The order will be effective until February 25, it added, the end of the launch window announced by Pyongyang that begins on February 8.

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