The North Korean ballistic missile which overflew Japanese territory and landed in the Pacific Ocean yesterday appears to have got the better of Japan’s sophisticated defence systems including the land-based PAC-3 and ship-mounted Standard Missile-3.
These anti-missile systems had been on alert in view of Pyongyang’s threat to launch missiles at the US military base in Guam. However, the missile flew some 2700 kilometers completely unchallenged before falling into the Pacific Ocean.
“Because North Korea had threatened to launch missiles toward the sea around the U.S. territory of Guam, the Japanese government had deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air systems (PAC-3) to four prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions,” a report in the Japanese newspaper Mainichi said today.
“But the missile that was launched on Aug. 29 passed over Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, in a completely different area from where the PAC-3 systems had been set up”, the report said suggesting that Pyongyang knew of the anti-missile systems and chose to skirt around them.
"We were not given any advance notice that this would happen, and the missile flew over Japan without authorization," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quoted as saying at a press conference on Aug. 29. "The seriousness of the latest missile launch is extremely grave in a way that is different than usual," he added.
The Japanese government had ordered its armed forces to shoot down any missiles coming toward Japan following North Korea’s multiple launches in the recent past.
The fact that the missile was successful in penetrating Japanese airspace exposes the limitations of the multi-billion dollar anti-missile systems.
Since similar anti-missile systems protect South Korea and US facilities in Guam, their airspace would be as exposed to Pyongyang's ballistic missiles as Japan's.
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