The US has announced that it plans to carry out a new test of its THAAD missile defense system against intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The test comes as tensions with North Korea are on the rise.
Although tests for the missile defense system had reportedly been planned months ago, the move has gained in significance in the wake of North Korea's launch last Tuesday of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could theoretically reach Alaska or Hawaii.
The US Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is designed to intercept and destroy short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.
The MDA said that the THAAD test against a ballistic missile target would be conducted at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska. THAAD "will detect, track and engage a target with a THAAD interceptor" rocket in "early July," the MDA said in a statement.
A controversial system
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the THAAD system, said it has the ability to intercept incoming missiles both inside and outside the Earth's atmosphere.
The US military this year began deploying THAAD to South Korea in a move that drew criticism from China, which has argued that the deployment would further destabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula and added that the system's powerful radar can probe deep into Chinese territory.
Earlier in July, Moscow and Beijing called on Washington to halt the deployment of THAAD in South Korea immediately. The joint statement claimed that Washington was using North Korea as a pretext to expand its military infrastructure in Asia.
US THAAD systems are also installed in Guam and Hawaii. The MDA has claimed that THAAD had a 100 percent successful track record in its 13 flight tests since 2006.
ss/jm (AFP, Reuters)