TOKYO, Jan. 10, Kyodo — Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said Tuesday she will visit Guam to inspect an advanced U.S. antiballistic missile defense system called THAAD as her country seeks to strengthen its defense against threats from North Korea.
“The Defense Ministry has no concrete plan to introduce THAAD at this stage, but the installation of this kind of new asset can be one of the measures to reinforce our (missile defense) capabilities,” the minister told a press conference, referring to the U.S. missile defense known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
Inada, who plans to make a two-day trip to Guam from Thursday, said North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs pose “a new level of threat” and that the Defense Ministry is considering ways to beef up Japan’s own ballistic missile defense system.
The THAAD system is designed to intercept ballistic missiles flying at high altitudes in and outside the atmosphere, providing a longer-range defense than the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system already deployed by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
Inada said she will inspect the U.S. system at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
During the visit, she also plans to confirm the progress of a plan to move part of the U.S. Marines stationed in Japan’s southern island prefecture of Okinawa to Guam as part of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.