US missile interceptor test has other targets than North Korea: expert

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/31 23:38:40

Test breaks strategic balance among nuke armed countries


A ground-based interceptor missile takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on Tuesday. The US military said it had intercepted a mock-up of an intercontinental ballistic missile in a first-of-its-kind test that comes amid concerns over North Korea's weapons program. Photo: AFP

A ground-based interceptor missile takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on Tuesday. The US military said it had intercepted a mock-up of an intercontinental ballistic missile in a first-of-its-kind test that comes amid concerns over North Korea's weapons program. Photo: Ecns.cn

The successful test of a US missile interceptor will break the strategic balance between the US and other nuclear armed countries, and is also an indication that the US is steadfastly preparing for military action on the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions, analysts said.

US military officials said a ground-based long-range interceptor missile launched Tuesday from a California military base shot down a simulated incoming warhead as part of a US defense system test, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California, 250 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, at a mock-up of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"This test is similar to actual combat because it used X-band radar to track and lock on to the target - an ICBM - by itself. In the past, the US used a medium-range missile and the defense system had the data and information about the target before the test," Yang Chengjun, a senior military strategist on missile studies from the PLA Rocket Force, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Officials said the interceptor missile traveled at 27,040 kilometers per hour and hit its target over the Pacific Ocean.

The test came a day after North Korea tested its ninth ballistic missile this year, which traveled 450 kilometers before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, Xinhua reported.

Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the test had been planned for some time and was not timed specifically as a response to North Korea. "In a broad sense, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability," he said in a statement.

"They [North Korea] continue to conduct test launches, as we saw this weekend, while also using dangerous rhetoric that suggests they would strike the US homeland," Davis said.

Pyongyang confirmed it successfully test-fired another ballistic missile on Monday, the third inside a month, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The test was aimed at "verifying the technological indices of the new-type precision guided ballistic rocket capable of making ultra-precision strike on the enemies' objects in any area," KCNA said Tuesday.

Yang said the US test indicates it is preparing for military action as tensions in Northeast Asia mount.

However, North Korea's test only proves that it has medium-range missiles, not ICBMs, so the US' missile defense system is targeting nuclear powers like China and Russia, which could launch ICBMs to strike US territory, Yang said.

The US interceptor has an uneven track record, having succeeded nine times out of 17 attempts against missiles in tests since 1999, although the most recent test in June 2014 was a success, Xinhua reported.

Arms race

The US has 26 interceptors based at Fort Greely in Alaska and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Last week, the Pentagon presented its 2018 budget to Congress, proposing spending $7.9 billion on missile defense, including $1.5 billion for the ground-based mid-course defense program, Xinhua reported.

"The balance between nuclear armed countries is based on 'Mutual Assured Destruction' (MAD), and the development of missile defense systems is for the US to seek absolute security. But it's actually damaging the balance and it will surely bring about an arms race among nuclear armed countries," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations.

"China also has its missile defense system, with technology very similar to the US', but the system is not as comprehensive as the US system," Yang noted.

US President Donald Trump currently needs to unify his country's polarized society and satisfy the military-industrial lobby, so he needs to talk tough about "absolute national security" and "overwhelming advantage to other countries" at this time, Chu told the Global Times on Wednesday.



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