A Standard Missile 3 interceptor launched from a Japanese warship yesterday destroyed a ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Dec. 14).
Stationed off the coast of Hawaii, the Japanese destroyer JDS Kongo fired the U.S.-built interceptor at a missile fired from the shore. The interceptor hit its target at 12:08 p.m. Hawaii time about 100 miles above the earth's surface, according to the Japanese navy.
The launch was the first time a U.S. ally has tested the SM-3 missile system. Previous Japanese collaboration in U.S. missile defense exercises was limited to tracking and sharing information about targets and interceptors launched by the United States.
Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said the test was "extremely significant." It was part of an ongoing U.S.-Japanese effort to shield the nations against a possible North Korean missile salvo.
"We will continue to strive to increase the system's credibility," he said in a news conference, insisting the missile defenses would be worth the high cost of investment.
"We can't talk about how much money should be spent when human lives are at stake," he said.
Japan's intends to invest $11.2 billion in missile defenses based on the Aegis defense system over a four-year period ending in March 2008. Defenses are expected to include four Aegis-equipped Japanese destroyers by March 2011, along with land-based Patriot Advanced Capability 3 missile interceptors, AFP reported.
The test was "a major milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S.," said a joint statement by Japanese Rear Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano and Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Dec. 17).