TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan will halt the process of deploying the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system in the country, Defense Minister Taro Kono said Monday, citing costs and technical issues.
Kono abruptly disclosed the suspension when he met the press, adding that he informed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the decision on Friday. The U.S.-developed missile defense system was expected to go into operation in fiscal 2025 at the earliest.
The Japanese government decided in 2017 to deploy two batteries to boost its capability to counter the threat of North Korean ballistic missiles.
They were to supplement the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis-equipped destroyers, with one candidate site in the northeastern prefecture of Akita and the other in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi.
“For the time being, we’ll maintain our capability of missile defense by Aegis-equipped destroyers,” Kono said.
The deployment plan was unpopular with residents concerned about the health effects of electromagnetic waves emitted by the Aegis Ashore’s radar, as well as the possibility of their communities becoming a target in an armed conflict.
The Defense Ministry was also found to have conducted an erroneous geographical survey to select Akita’s Araya district as the hosting site.
Faced with criticism, the government decided to redo geographical assessments at 20 potential sites in the northeastern region of Tohoku, including Araya.
It had aimed to come up with fresh survey results by March 20, but the schedule has been repeatedly pushed back due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.