Japan and South Korea have put their armed forces on standby in response to North Korea’s plans, prepared to shoot down the missile if it passes over their territory.
North Korea was this weekend believed to be at the first stage of launching the rocket, expected between April 12 and 16, claiming that it is part of the centenary celebrations for the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il Sung.
However, the United States, Japan and South Korea believe that in reality it will be a ballistic missile test in violation of UN resolutions.
It is against such a backdrop of rising regional tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, will arrive in Japan on a two-day visit this week.
His arrival may, by good fortune, coincide with the blooming of the capital’s cherry blossoms, but flower appreciation will take a back seat to regional security issues.