North Korea appears to be developing warheads to penetrate a missile shield defending Japan, the country’s defence minister has said.
Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on Tuesday Japan believed the rockets were a new short-range ballistic missile, pointing to their irregular trajectories, which theoretically could outsmart existing defence systems.
Recent short-range missile tests by Pyongyang have stoked alarm in neighbouring Japan even as US president Donald Trump has dismissed the launches as unimportant.
Japan and the US have Aegis destroyers deployed in the Sea of Japan armed with interceptor missiles designed to destroy warheads in space. Japan also plans to build two land-based Aegis batteries to bolster its ballistic missile shield.
Those defence systems, however, are designed to counter projectiles on regular and therefore, predictable, trajectories, and any variation in flight path would make interception trickier.
Detailed analysis of the latest North Korean launches was underway with the US, an official of South Korea’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
The United Nations security council discussed North Korea’s actions in a private session on Tuesday at the request of Germany, France and Britain. The three countries condemned Pyongyang’s “repeated provocative launches” as violations of security council resolutions.
Germany, Britain and France said in a joint statement after the meeting: “International sanctions must remain in place and be fully and strictly enforced until North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes are dismantled. It is vital that the security council shows unity in upholding its resolutions.”
Saturday’s test firings came a day after Seoul said it was ending a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, amid a worsening spat over wartime forced labour.
Iwaya and other Japanese officials called Seoul’s decision “irrational” as the threat posed by North Korea grows.