Japan to scrap costly land-based US missile defence system - InfoNews

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Japan to scrap costly land-based US missile defence system

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono speaks to reporters on the Hawaiian island of Kauai after inspecting an Aegis Ashore missile-defense system at the Pacific Missile Range Facility of the U.S. Navy on Jan. 13, 2020. Kono told reporters in Tokyo Monday, June 15, 2020 that his ministry has decided to suspend unpopular plans to deploy a costly land-based U.S. missile combat systems aimed at bolstering the country’s defense against escalating threats from North Korea. The decision to virtually scrap the plan to buy two Aegis Ashore systems came after the plan had already faced a series of setbacks including land survey data, repeated cost estimate hikes and safety concerns that led to persistent local opposition. (Kyodo News via AP)
June 15, 2020 - 5:07 AM

TOKYO - Japan's Defence Ministry said Monday that it has decided to stop unpopular plans to deploy two costly land-based U.S. missile defence systems aimed at bolstering the country’s capability against threats from North Korea.

Defence Minister Taro Kono told reporters that he decided to “stop the deployment process” of the Aegis Ashore systems after it was found that the safety of one of the two planned host communities could not be ensured without a hardware redesign that would be too time consuming and costly.

(asterisk)Considering the cost and time it would require, I had no choice but judge that pursuing the plan is not logical,” Kono said.

The Japanese government in 2017 approved adding the two missile defence systems to bolster the country's current defences consisting of Aegis-equipped destroyers at sea and Patriot missiles on land.

Defence officials have said the two Aegis Ashore units could cover Japan entirely from one station at Yamaguchi in the south and another at Akita in the north. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will now have to reconsider Japan's missile defence program.

The plan to deploy the two missile defence systems already had faced a series of setbacks, including questions about the selection of one of the sites, repeated cost estimate hikes that climbed to 450 billion yen ($4.1 billion) for their 30-year operation and maintenance, and safety concerns that led to local opposition.

Critics have also said that the systems were to intercept long-range North Korean missiles from hitting Guam or Hawaii rather than for Japan's self-defence, possibly interfering with the country's war-renouncing constitution.

Kono said that Japan had already spent 180 billion yen ($1.7 billion) for the systems, but that not everything will go to waste because the system is compatible with those used on Japanese destroyers.

It was ultimately the inability to guarantee the safety of the community in Yamaguchi that was the deal breaker. Defence officials had promised that any boosters used to intercept a missile flying over Japan would fall only on a military base there, and ensuring a safe fall of boosters to the base was proving impossible with the current design of the systems, Kono said.

Japan chose Aegis Ashore over a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, system because of its cheaper cost and versatility. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea triggered protests from China, with Beijing seeing it as a security threat.

The U.S. has installed the land-fixed Aegis Ashore in Romania and Poland, and Japan was to be a third country to host the system.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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