U.S. missile defense maturing, latest test a success.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Within a year, the U.S. missile defense system should be able to guard against enemy attacks, while testing new technologies, the deputy director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Monday.

The United States activated the ground-based system last summer when North Korea launched one long-range and six short-range missiles.

North Korea’s intercontinental Taepodong 2 missile fell into the Sea of Japan shortly after launch but the short-range tests appeared successful, said Brig. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

O’Reilly said there would be no formal announcement that the system was operational. He predicted the capability to defend against enemy missiles and to continue testing and development work would be achieved within a year.

“It’s just a matter of maturation,” he told reporters after a speech hosted by the George C. Marshall Institute, a public policy group.

O’Reilly said work by North Korea and Iran on long-range ballistic missiles underscored the need for a viable U.S. missile defense system.

The war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants last summer also highlighted the dangers of ballistic missiles and their use by non-state actors, he said. “We know we must be prepared for all contingencies.”

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