, TOKYO, Nov 23 – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday he has ordered his ministers to prepare for any eventuality after North Korea fired artillery shells on to a South Korean island.
"I ordered (ministers) to make preparations so that we can react firmly, should any unexpected event occur," Kan told reporters after an emergency meeting of cabinet members and senior officials at his official residence.
"I ordered them to do their utmost to gather information," he said.
The North Korean attack on the island near the border between the two Koreas killed at least one South Korean marine and triggered an exchange of fire as southern armed forces went on their highest state of alert.
Kan said he planned to attend a scheduled event at the imperial palace on Tuesday evening, but said he will remain updated on the situation.
"We will make preparations so that whatever happens, we will be able to deal with it," Kan said.
The incident came after North Korea\’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.
Japan has long regarded North Korea as a military threat because of its nuclear and missile programmes.
Ties between Japan and North Korea have been tense for years, with Tokyo taking a hard line over Pyongyang\’s military programmes as well as the kidnapping of Japanese nationals during the Cold War to train spies.
North Korea has also lambasted Japan for its past aggression in Asia before and during the World War II and has accused Japan of antagonistic posturing against the North.