New N. Korean missile prompts Kyuma to seek high-altitude interceptor

Kyodo News

Japan and the United States need to study technologies for intercepting high-altitude ballistic missiles, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said Tuesday in response to news that North Korea has developed a new ground-launched, intermediate-range missile.

Kyuma told a news conference the sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors that Japan is planning to deploy are designed to counter ballistic missiles that fly at medium altitude and “therefore there is a need to conduct technological research with the U.S. for high altitude as well.”

North Korea’s new Musudan missile is based on the former Soviet Union’s submarine-launched SSN-6 ballistic missile. It is believed to have a longer reach than the Taepodong-1, which reportedly has a range of more than 1,500 km.

Ballistic missiles take a parabolic course and generally fly higher as their range increases. Because the Musudan has an estimated range of 2,500 to 4,000 km, it would likely be able to evade the SM-3.

The SM-3 system Japan is preparing to deploy can intercept ballistic missiles with a range of 1,500 to 2,000 km, ministry officials said.

The two-phased system uses ship-launched SM-3s to hit incoming missiles before they enter the atmosphere, and ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors to kill any that escape the SM-3s.