Japan mulling new missile interceptor deployment to guard against North Korea

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to endorse the Aegis Ashore deployment in December, a source said

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 10:24pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 10:29pm

To bolster protection against the threat posed by North Korean missiles, Japan is studying deploying a new land-based Aegis missile defence system in both Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan and Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan, a government source said on Saturday.

Under the plan, the Ground Self-Defence Force would operate Aegis Ashore systems at SDF facilities in those two prefectures. But some defence Ministry officials are opposed to the plan, the source said.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to endorse the Aegis Ashore deployment in December, the source said.

Given that the purchase of the missile system is not included in the long-term defence programme outline, cabinet approval is needed for the deployment.

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The Defence Ministry has already requested money in the budget for the financial year starting next April for designing the Aegis Ashore programme.

Aegis Ashore uses the same components as used on US and Japanese Aegis destroyers. To provide coverage of all Japan, deployment of two such units is said to be sufficient.

To avoid an overlap in coverage, the government plans to deploy one in eastern Japan and another in western Japan. It will continue to study candidate sites, however, because an Aegis Ashore in Yamaguchi cannot cover some southwestern islands in Kagoshima and Okinawa prefectures, the source said.

Under Japan’s current ballistic missile defence system, the Maritime Self-Defence Force’s Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors are tasked with stopping missiles in the outer atmosphere.

If they fail, the Air Self-Defence Force’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors are the next line of defence against missile attack.

Introducing the Aegis Ashore system is expected to strengthen the country’s ballistic missile defence system even further.

Compared to the sea-based operations of Aegis destroyers, the land-based Aegis Ashore system makes it easier for the SDF to prepare for missile intercepts because the system would be installed at a stationary site.