A U.S. warship has successfully knocked down a short-range missile fired from Hawaii, the Pentagon has said, amid global concerns about a possible North Korea missile test.
An interceptor rocket fired from the cruiser USS Shiloh knocked down the warhead from a target missile about 250 miles off Kauai shortly after noon (6 p.m. ET), the Defense Department's missile defense agency reported on Thursday.
The U.S. missile defense agency said Thursday's test had been scheduled for months and was not prompted by indications that North Korea was planning to test launch a long-range missile, AP reported.
The latest test of the U.S. missile defense program is the seventh time in eight attempts the military has successfully shot down a target with a ship-based interceptor, the Pentagon said.
A Japanese warship took part in the exercise, using its radar to track the test missile, the Pentagon said.
It is the first time a U.S. ally has taken part in a sea-based missile defense test after Tokyo agreed to develop missile defense technology with America last year.
Tokyo became interested in developing the technology after North Korea last test-fired a missile, firing it over Japan's main island, according to The Associated Press.
The North Koreans fired the Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, but declared a moratorium on future tests in 1999.
Thursday's exercise was conducted as the United States, Japan and other countries are monitoring North Korea's reported preparations for a long-range missile test.
Pyongyang is now suspected of preparing a longer-range missile, the Taepodong-2, for launch. Analysts suspect that missile could be capable of reaching the western United States.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that "all the intelligence suggests they have been making preparations for a launch of a missile," but it was not clear whether a launch was imminent.
"There's a lot we know and a lot we don't know, so we'll just have to see," Rumsfeld said.
The United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea have been trying to persuade the isolated Stalinist state to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons in six-party talks since 2002. Hadley called on North Korea to "respect its own moratorium" Thursday and return to the six-party talks.
"That is the message the Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans and everybody else has sent to the North Koreans -- that we are trying to deal with a broader set of issues with North Korea through the six-party talks, and a test would obviously be disruptive of those talks," he said.
Sea-based missile defense tests have been more successful than tests of the land-based interceptor system the Pentagon has deployed in Alaska and California. That system has had five successful tests out of 10, with the last successful test in 2002.
But Pentagon officials say the technical problems that plagued more recent tests have been resolved, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said earlier that the $11 billion system has "some limited operational capability."