Japan confirms its scrapping US missile defense system
TOKYO (AP) - Japan's National Security Council has approved plans to discontinue the use of two costly US land-based missile defense systems to strengthen the country's ability to deal with threats from North Korea, the country's defense minister said Thursday.
The council made its decision on Wednesday, and now the government needs to start negotiations with the United States on what to do with payments and the sales contract already signed for the Aegis Ashore systems.
The Council is also expected to revise Japan's basic defense plan later this year to update the missile defense program and improve the country's defensive stance.
Defense Minister Taro Kono announced earlier this month the plan to scrap the systems after it was determined that the security of either of the two host communities planned could not be guaranteed without an overly time-consuming and costly hardware redesign.
The Japanese government approved the addition of the two Aegis land systems in 2017 to improve the country's current defense, which consists of Aegis-equipped destroyers at sea and Patriot missiles on land.
Defense officials said the two Aegis Ashore units could fully cover Japan from one station in Yamaguchi in the south and another in Akita in the north.
The plan to deploy the two systems has already faced a number of setbacks, including site selection issues, repeated cost estimate increases that have been raised to 450 billion yen ($ 4.1 billion) for their 30-year operation and maintenance. Security concerns had increased, leading to local opposition.
Kono said Japan signed a contract worth almost half the total cost and paid part of it to the United States.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been constantly striving to improve Japan's defense capability, said last week that the government must rethink Japan's anti-missile defense program and do more as part of the country's security alliance with the United States.
Abe said the government would consider the possibility of acquiring preventive strike capabilities, a controversial plan that critics said would violate Japan's war-free constitution.
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