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Japan says succeeds in missile shield test

TOKYO — A Japanese naval destroyer fired an interceptor missile to shoot down a mock ballistic missile off Hawaii in a test of Japan’s missile-defense system, the defense ministry said Friday.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency in a statement called the test a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.”

The target was launched from a U.S. navy facility on Hawaii at 0306 GMT, the Japanese defense ministry said in a statement.

The destroyer Kirishima, equipped with the Aegis radar system, detected the target and fired a SM-3 interceptor missile three minutes later, the statement added. The interceptor struck the target in outer space.

It was the fourth SM-3 launch tests Japan has conducted since 2007, using in turn four Aegis-equipped destroyers which have been upgraded with missile-defense functions. Three of the intercept tests were successful.

Washington and Tokyo have been working jointly to install a missile shield, citing the threat of attacks from North Korea, which fired a missile over Japan’s main island in 1998 and tested an atomic bomb in 2006.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has been urging its NATO allies to build a missile defense shield in Europe using the SM-3 interceptors and the Aegis radar system.

The latest test took place hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in Hawaii at the start of her two-week tour of the Asia-Pacific region.

Clinton and Maehara reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Japan security alliance in the face of China’s growing military strength and vowed to diversify sources of rare earths imports dominated by China.

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