Japan is the first US ally to successfully carry out a test of the US-built interceptor system.
A Japanese naval vessel shot down a ballistic missile Monday over the Pacific Ocean, the first US ally to successfully carry out such a test. Japan plans to install the US-built interceptor system on four of its warships, in addition to land-based missile systems to defend itself from possible attack from neighboring North Korea.
Japan has stepped up military cooperation with the US since North Korea test-fired a long-range missile over Japan in 1998. Monday's test is a reminder of tensions in Northeast Asia, including the flash point of Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty and which it has targeted with hundreds of missiles. Analysts say Japan's interceptor missiles could be used to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
In Monday's test, an Aegis-equipped Japanese warship, the JS Kongo, tracked and intercepted a target missile fired from a US naval base in Hawaii, the Associated Press reported. The target was fired at 12:05 p.m. local time and shot down about 100 miles above the ocean at 12:11 p.m., according to the US Missile Defense Agency.
Japan's top government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura hailed the test result.
"This is very significant for Japanese national security," Machimura said at a regular press briefing in Tokyo. "The Defense Ministry and the government have been putting efforts into the development of ballistic missile defense, and we will continue to install the needed equipment and conduct exercises."
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