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Japan: North Korea develops warheads to penetrate missile defenses

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Pyongyang appears to be developing warheads to penetrate a ballistic missile shield that protects Japan, Japanese Defense Minister Takashi Iwai said on Tuesday, referring to North Korea’s erratic missile launches.

A spokesman for the ministry quoted Iwaya as saying at a news conference that Japan believed Pyongyang’s missiles were new short-range ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang’s tests of short-range missiles have caused concern in neighboring Japan, although US President Donald Trump has called them unimportant.

The UN Security Council discussed North Korea’s steps in closed session on Tuesday at the request of Germany, France and Britain. The three countries condemned Pyongyang’s “repeated provocative launches” as a violation of Security Council resolutions.

“International sanctions must continue and be fully and strictly enforced until North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are terminated,” the three countries said in a joint statement after the meeting. It is important that the Security Council demonstrate its unity in strengthening its resolution.”

Saturday’s tests came after South Korea said it had decided to end the intelligence-sharing deal with Tokyo amid a growing row over forced labor during World War Two.

Iwaya and other Japanese officials described Seoul’s decision as “irrational” given the growing threat posed by North Korea.

Japan and the United States deploy Aegis destroyers in the Sea of ​​Japan with interceptor missiles designed to destroy warheads in the air. Japan also plans to build two Aegis ground batteries to bolster its ballistic missile shield.

But these defensive systems are designed to counter missiles fired on a regular basis, so their paths can be predicted, but any variation in the launch path will make the interception process more difficult.

A South Korean defense ministry official said on Tuesday that his country and the United States were conducting a thorough analysis of North Korea’s recent missile tests.

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