If the rocket or any of its major components go on a trajectory that would likely cause it to fall somewhere on Japanese land, then it wouldn’t make sense not to try to intercept it. The North Korean authorities appear to be making threats in this regard, but they’re leaving themselves enough room to talk their way out of having to make a counterattack without losing face by claiming that the Japanese actions did not turn out to be an attack. Besides, what can the North Korean authorities do? Impose a trade embargo? What’s more intriguing is this: Will the U.S. Aegis destroyers in the area also fire their missiles at a falling (or about-to-fall) projectile? I’m not sure that point has been adequately addressed publicly. I assume they will; if they don’t, that will surely unsettle the Japanese public and seriously impact the bilateral security relationship. Either way, it’s a matter that cannot be tabled until the occasion actually arises.
But why shoot it down if it’s likely to fall into the sea, even if it’ happens to be our territorial waters? Even in Tokyo Bay, the chances of a hit causing damage should be lower than getting a hit on your number in a turn of roulette—not that I would recommend taking that chance, but still. Shouldn’t we take the claims of the North Korean authorities at face value and retrieve it for them, check the device to make sure that it was indeed a satellite launch, then hand it over in the spirit of neighborliness…after, of course, they reimburse us for costs incurred?
Incidentally, the English-language media is calling it both a “missile” and a “rocket”. It appears to hang on the whim of the reporter (or the copy desk). The Japanese media, except for that one example that I referred to, consistently calls it “misairu”, or “missile”.