The government will likely include about ¥200 billion in the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 to reinforce its missile defense system in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, according to government sources.
The government intends to compile a total supplementary budget of around ¥1 trillion, excluding economic stimulus measures, they said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to instruct Finance Minister Taro Aso soon to start compiling the budget. The government will likely approve the supplementary budget at a Cabinet meeting in mid-December, and submit it to an ordinary Diet session to be convened next year.
The government plans to appropriate about ¥188 billion for the purchase of improved Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air guided missiles, and for the costs to upgrade a system to equip the advanced PAC-3 missiles.
While PAC-3 missiles currently deployed in Japan have a range of about 15 to 20 kilometers, the improved version could almost double the range.
The Defense Ministry had previously made a budgetary request for fiscal 2017 to purchase improved PAC-3 missiles, among others. The government has decided to expedite part of the implementation of the budget.
The government also will earmark about ¥7 billion to add the missile defense function to the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis-equipped vessels.
North Korea has test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles so far this year. In most of the cases, the missiles were fired on mobile launching pads, which made the launches difficult to detect.
In September, North Korea simultaneously fired three Rodong intermediate-range ballistic missiles with a range of 1,300 kilometers into roughly the same area within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), demonstrating its technical improvement in the accuracy of such missiles.
For Japan, the reinforcement of its missile defense system is a pressing issue.
The reason the government began considering earmarking about ¥200 billion for missile defense-related measures in the fiscal 2016 third supplementary budget is because threats from North Korea have reached an unprecedented level.
Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the threats “are in a different dimension from previous ones.”
Many of the third supplementary budgets in previous fiscal years focused mainly on economic stimulus measures or responses to disasters. The government’s recent response to North Korea could be said to be unprecedented.
As North Korea has engaged simultaneously in nuclear and missile development, Japan should be prepared for a situation in which North Korean missiles with nuclear warheads could reach Japan.
The missile defense system to intercept missiles is two-tiered — a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) fired from an Aegis-equipped destroyer that can shoot down a missile at a high altitude outside the atmosphere, and a Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air guided missile that can take down a missile at an altitude of a dozen kilometers from the ground.
However, if several ballistic missiles are fired simultaneously, “it’s difficult to intercept all of them,” a senior official of the Self-Defense Forces said.
In addition to a plan to improve the PAC-3 system, the government has begun full discussions on the introduction of the United States’ state-of-the-art missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
If THAAD is introduced, Japan’s defense capabilities to intercept missiles will be further improved with a three-tiered system — the SM-3, PAC-3 and THAAD.