Japan wants to deploy land-based US Aegis missile shield in Akita to guard against N Korea threat

The government has installed two Aegis Ashore batteries to protect the entire Japanese archipelago against North Korea’s missile threats, and now wants to put more in the city of Akita

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 8:38pm

The defence Ministry said Friday it hopes to start deploying the US land-based Aegis Ashore missile defence system in the city of Akita, northern Japan, with a senior official noting the need to boost the country’s missile defence capabilities amid the unpredictable situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Parliamentary Vice Defence Minister Tatsuo Fukuda told Akita Governor Norihisa Satake and Akita Mayor Motomu Hozumi that the ministry wants to start surveying the Ground Self-Defence Force’s training area in Akita’s Araya district, describing the site as “most suitable” for the planned Aegis Ashore deployment in fiscal 2023.

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The government decided in December to install two Aegis Ashore batteries to protect the entire Japanese archipelago against the North Korean missile threat and has selected the site in Akita along with the GSDF’s Mutsumi training area in Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, as candidate sites.

Both sites are on the Sea of Japan – also known as the East Sea – coast facing the Korean Peninsula.

The land-based system will supplement Japan’s missile interception capabilities and is considered more efficient than deploying Aegis-equipped destroyers every time.

While tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been receding since North Korea pledged to denuclearise, with US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expected to hold a summit in Singapore this month, Fukuda indicated the government still believes the introduction of the Aegis Ashore system is necessary.

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“We cannot speak with certainty about the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” Fukuda said as he sought the approval for the candidate site from the governor and mayor.

Satake said the training zone is close to residential areas, asking the defence Ministry to “consider conducting a survey on the impact of the deployment and to provide thorough explanations to the residents”.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government plans to carefully answer every question and concern raised by locals.

“It is extremely important that North Korea abandon all of its weapons of mass destructions and the government bears the heavy responsibility of protecting people’s lives and peace,” the top government spokesman said, adding the government is seeking to commence the Aegis Ashore deployment swiftly.