Japan could legally intercept ballistic missiles if North Korea fires them at the US territory of Guam, the Japanese defence minister has warned.

The statement comes in the wake of North Korea stating that it is drafting plans to fire ballistic missiles towards Guam. Pyongyang said its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would fly over Japan when it launches them targeting the US territory.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told a parliamentary session on Thursday (10 August) that if the North fires missiles Japan too would face a threat. He said Japan could exercise the right to "collective" self-defence in supporting its ally, the US. The Aegis destroyer ship-to-air missile defence system could be activated in such an eventuality, he added.

A law that came into effect in 2016 allows the Japanese military to defend the US and other allies when they are attacked. However, most experts believe Japan does not possess the capability to shoot down North Korean missiles cruising towards Guam.

In the past Japan warned it would shoot down any missile flying towards it territory.

Echoing a similar stance, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief government spokesman, told reporters that his country cannot be a mute spectator to the growing threats posed by the North.

"North Korea's provocative actions, including this time, are obviously provocative to the region including Japan as well as to the security of the international community. We can never tolerate this," Suga said.

When asked specifically whether Japan would shoot down North Korean missiles, he refused to divulge operational details.

Stating that Japan's armed forces would take all "necessary" measures, Suga added: "It's very important to maintain US deterrent power as the security situation in the region is extremely severe. President Trump has said all options are on the table and the government welcomes that policy."

North Korea rejects talks offer
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts during the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) test launch in this undated photo. Pyongyang has threatened to attack the US territory of Guam. KCNA via Reuters