MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday the Philippines will seek the assistance of the United States to track a North Korean long-range rocket, part of which is expected to land off the Philippines.
“We need the help of the US to monitor the path (of the rocket). We don’t have the capability to do that,” Gazmin told reporters in a chance interview after the 115th Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio.
“But with our alliances, we will be provided with the necessary information. We should know the details so that we will know how to inform and warn our people who will be in the (rocket’s) path,” he said.
He said that the government is very much concerned with the rocket launch since it involves the safety of the country.
North Korea announced last week it would launch the rocket to place a satellite in orbit between April 12 and 16, insisting it was for peaceful space research.
But the United States and other nations see the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test, and say that it would breach a UN ban on North Korean missile launches.
A previous North Korean long-range rocket in 2009 flew over Japanese territory and the boosters landed safely in waters off Japan.
Gazmin admitted that the government has yet to know the specific areas that might be affected by the launch so the public could be warned.
He said North Korean should heed the plea of countries like the United States and Japan.
“Makinig sila para walang mabuong tension (North Korea should listen to avoid tension),” Gazmin said.
In a letter to the UN’s International Maritime Organization, North Korea said the second stage of its latest rocket was expected to splash down 190 kilometers (118 miles) east of the northern Philippines.
The first stage of the rocket would fall about 140 kilometers off South Korea’s west coast, in international waters between China and the South, the letter said.
On Wednesday, the Philippine government joined its US and South Korean allies in criticizing North Korea’s planned launch, calling it “unacceptable”.
“The Philippine military is ready to coordinate with its US counterpart in the monitoring of the planned launch,” the Foreign Department said in a separate statement.
Japan has warned that it may try to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it heads towards Japanese territory or waters.