Japan confirms scrapping US missile defence system

Tokyo (AFP) - Japan has abolished the use of a multi-billion US missile defense system, the government confirmed Thursday days after the program was suspended.
Interceptors for the Aegis Land system should be placed under the costly and controversial program in two regions.
However, the government reversed the course under pressure from local residents who were concerned about the risks of a missile defense system in their back yard.
"The National Security Council discussed the matter and decided that Aegis Ashore's deployment in Akita and Yamaguchi should be lifted," Defense Minister Taro Kono said at a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
"I would like to apologize deeply for that."
Later on Thursday, Kono said Tokyo and Washington were discussing how to counter Pyongyang missile threats after the defense system plan was dropped.
"There is a threat from North Korea," Kono told reporters.
"We spoke to the United States about how we could improve our ballistic missile defense capabilities or our integrated anti-missile defense capabilities," he added.
"So we are trying to make the most of what we have agreed with the United States."
The government originally guaranteed that interceptors would not land in residential areas near the system.
When Kano first announced last week that the deployment of the system had been suspended, he said that keeping that promise would require a costly and time-consuming hardware upgrade.
The Aegis Ashore system, which was approved for purchase in 2017, cost Japan an estimated $ 4.2 billion in three decades.
However, there have been competing claims as to whether the initial estimates would not reach actual costs.
The purchase agreement for the system was seen both as part of Tokyo's attempts to strengthen defense capabilities after the launch of the North Korean missile and as a way to maintain closer ties with Washington.
President Donald Trump has urged allies to buy more American products, including military equipment.
Japan's armed forces have long been limited to self-defense, and the country is heavily dependent on the United States as part of a bilateral security alliance.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week that his government was determined to consider alternatives to the Aegis Ashore system.
"There should be no gap in our country's defense. We want to have discussions about what to do," he said.

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