TOKYO -- The medium-range missile tested by North Korea on Wednesday could strike Japan from a high-altitude trajectory, a government analysis indicates, a finding that may accelerate efforts to reinforce Japanese defenses.
The Musudan ballistic missile is believed to have a range of 2,500km to 4,000km, encompassing the U.S. territory of Guam. One of two missiles launched Wednesday reached an altitude of over 1,000km and flew 400km, suggesting it was on a lofted trajectory, or a higher but shorter path. A missile approaching from a high altitude travels faster on descent, making it tougher to intercept. Tokyo thinks the missile could hit Japan if the launch angle were adjusted.
Japan's government had assumed that a strike against the country by Pyongyang would involve a Nodong missile, which has an estimated range of 1,300km. If North Korea deploys the Musudan as well, Japan would face a more diverse array of missile threats, a government source said.
Tokyo is working with Washington to develop a rocket that can intercept missiles from altitudes exceeding 1,000km, aiming for deployment in fiscal 2019. Japan also plans to increase its ships equipped with the Aegis missile defense system from four to eight around fiscal 2020. North Korea's test could bring louder calls to move up these timetables.