US and Japan strengthen defense ties with hypersonic interceptor agreement

In response to the increasing development of hypersonic warheads by neighboring nations, Japan and the U.S. are set to finalize an agreement to co-develop a state-of-the-art interceptor missile, as reported by Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper on Sunday. The anticipated agreement emerges ahead of a planned meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the U.S. this Friday.

While the Yomiuri newspaper did not disclose its sources, it highlighted the significance of this partnership aimed at neutralizing weapons that can bypass current ballistic missile defenses. Hypersonic projectiles pose a unique challenge, as they don’t adhere to predictable trajectories like traditional ballistic warheads. Instead, they have the capability to alter their course mid-flight, complicating interception efforts.

This pivotal bilateral discussion between Biden and Kishida will take place on the fringes of a trilateral summit, also involving South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, hosted at the esteemed presidential retreat, Camp David, Maryland. Earlier in January, during high-level talks involving U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, both nations expressed intentions to contemplate this interceptor’s development.

If formalized, this collaboration will mark their second joint venture in missile defense technology. As a testament to their deepening defense ties, the U.S. and Japan previously co-developed a long-range missile aimed at targeting warheads in space. Japan has since positioned these missiles on its warships, patrolling the sea between Japan and the Korean peninsula, strengthening its defense against potential North Korean missile threats.