The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced Wednesday that it successfully shot down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii in a new test of its missile defense system at sea.
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been rising in recent months over Pyongyang's development of its nuclear programme.
"We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase", Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a "prelude" to possible strikes on or around Guam.
The target was successfully intercepted by SM-6 missiles fired from the USS John Paul Jones.
Vertically-launched from a a MK 41 VLS canister, the Mach 3.5+ Standard Missile-6 originally has been designed for anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare missions, but has been modified in 2015 for sea-based terminal ballistic missile defense (dubbed Standard Missile-6 Dual 1) supplementing the U.S. Navy's Standard Missile-3 ballistic missile interceptor deployed at land-based Aegis Ashore sites and Aegis-equipped warships. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.
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If he looked only mildly pleased at the milestone, it said more for a day of hard work and perseverance than anything else. It would be a truly remarkable achievement, coming from a country that plays relatively little Test cricket.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says North Korea's latest provocative missile test is a reckless violation of Japan's sovereignty. An earlier test of the same interceptor in February succeeded.
Like prior versions in Raytheon's Standard Missile series, the SM-6 originally was developed to shoot down air threats like cruise missiles and aircraft.
The U.S. frequently tests elements of its missile defense systems. A Standard Missile-3 Block IIA jointly developed by the US and Japan failed to intercept its target. In addition, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed any diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, saying "talking is not the answer".
In that test, the interceptor collided with the ICBM-class target over the Pacific Ocean a little more than one hour after it was launched.