Missile Defense Agency: Navy ship successfully shoots down missile in test
By JANE ONYANGA-OMARA | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 30, 2017
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said a U.S. warship successfully shot down a medium-range ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii on Wednesday, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to press ahead with more missile tests in the Pacific.
The USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked a missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai with its onboard radar, before intercepting it with SM-6 missiles, the MDA said.
It said it marked the second time an SM-6 missile has successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile in a test.
MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said the test marked a "key milestone."
"We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves," Greaves said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will meet Wednesday at the Pentagon with South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo, the Pentagon said. The two will discuss possible responses to North Korea's provocative actions, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
North Korea on Wednesday released images of its intermediate-range ballistic missile launch over Japan a day before.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday that the Hwasong-12, the first missile the nation has fired over Japan, was “guided” by leader Kim Jong Un and observed by senior officials.
“Involved in the drill were Hwasong artillery units…tasked with striking the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces located in the Pacific operational theater,” the KCNA reported.
It said the launch of the intermediate-range rocket was “part of the muscle-flexing” in reaction to ongoing military drills by the U.S. and South Korea, “in disregard” for Pyongyang’s “meaningful and crucial warning.”
The North sees the military exercises as a preparation for war.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled nearly 1,700 miles and reached a maximum height of 341 miles as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido early Tuesday. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, described the test as an "unprecedented, grave threat."
Kim said "more ballistic missile rocket launching drills" are "necessary" to modernize his military's strategic capabilities and that his country will continue to watch “U.S. demeanors” before it decides on future actions.
Kim expressed "great satisfaction" with what he called a “meaningful prelude” to containing the U.S. territory of Guam, which he has threatened to fire four missiles toward.
President Trump warned Tuesday that "all options are on the table" in response to North Korea's latest missile launch. A military one seems unlikely, security analysts said.
The U.N. Security Council said it “strongly condemns” the missile test and the North’s launching of three ballistic missiles into the sea on Aug. 25. It demanded that Pyongyang “immediately cease all such actions” in a statement following an emergency meeting Tuesday. It did not announce new sanctions.
Choo Mi-ae, the head of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, urged Pyongyang to accept its offer of dialogue and said “such an act that threatens neighboring nations is unpardonable," the South’s Yonhap news agency reported.
"If North Korea trusts South Korea's government and holds its hands, the door will open for its survival. Otherwise, it will face more serious isolation,” Choo said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country will “fully and completely” abide by U.N. Security Council sanctions and would work with other council members on how best to react to the North’s latest action.
“We will make a necessary response,” Wang said. China, North Korea’s most important ally, accounts for about 90% of the North’s foreign trade.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called on China to put more pressure on North Korea, as she arrived in Japan for a three-day visit Wednesday.
“We think that China has a role to play and we’d encourage China to do everything it can to bring pressure on North Korea to stop this,” she said.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 10 companies and six individuals from mostly China and Russia who it says helped North Korea develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
They were the latest in a raft of blacklists issued in recent months to punish Chinese and Russian companies that try to evade international efforts to isolate North Korea.
Contributing: Jim Michaels