Japan scrambles for improved missile defenses; Latest North Korean test raises alarms

by WorldTribune Staff, October 2, 2019

North Korea carried out another projectile launch on Oct. 2, adding to a series of recent missile launches which have prompted alarm in Japan.

Japan in 2018 agreed to buy the land-based Aegis Ashore sites offered by Washington. / U.S. Navy photo

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said that the projectile fired by North Korea on Oct. 2 landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) about 350 kilometers north of Dogo Island, Shimane Prefecture, at around 7:27 a.m. after flying 450 km at an altitude of up to 900 km.

“The firing of this missile poses a grave threat to the security of our country,” Kono told reporters.

The launch was North Korea’s ninth since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un met at the Demilitarized Zone in June.

It came just a day after Pyongyang announced it had agreed with the United States to hold working-level talks on Oct. 5, a development that analysts say could potentially break months of stalemate.

The North’s recent launches appeared to test new missiles with irregular trajectories designed to penetrate ballistic missile defenses, including the Aegis Ashore stations, Geostrategy-Direct reported on Oct. 1, citing former Japanese defense chief Takeshi Iwaya.

As part of a major defense upgrade, Japan in 2018 agreed to buy the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense sites offered by the United States.

Typically, such defense systems as Aegis Ashore are designed to counter projectiles on predictable flight paths.

“North Korea has been enhancing missile-related technologies and promoting nuclear and missile development programs. We can never overlook a firing like this, which is also a grave problem for international society as well,” Kono said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said North Korea fired the unidentified projectile from around Wonsan, in southeast Kangwon province, towards the sea to the east.

Following the Oct. 2 launch by the North, the South Korean military and Japan’s Coast Guard said they will hold working-level talks with the United States this weekend.

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