The United States and Japan finalized an agreement in late February to continue joint research on a sea-based missile defense system designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Details of the agreement are scarce because its contents are to be kept confidential, according to a U.S. Defense Department official.
Joint U.S.-Japanese cooperation on missile defense began in 1999. The two countries agreed to work together on creating a new nose cone, a second-stage propulsion system, an infrared seeker, and a hit-to-kill warhead for the Standard Missile-3. The Standard Missile-3 is the missile used in the U.S. sea-based missile defense system, which successfully destroyed targets in three intercept tests in 2002, although a recent Pentagon report described the tests as “simplistic.” (See ACT, March 2003.)
Under the new agreement, this past cooperation will continue and include future flight tests. The Japanese government, however, has not yet decided whether it will continue cooperation beyond the research phase to actual development and deployment.