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Gov’t pushing for Aegis Ashore deployment despite local opposition, change in DPRK situation

The government aims to have land-based Aegis Ashore batteries operational from fiscal 2023. On June 22, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera visited Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures, candidate sites for the deployment of the missile defense system, to seek their understanding of the plan. With tensions between the U.S. and North Korea easing, the local communities are displaying strong opposition and concerns, but the Abe government is accelerating the deployment.

 

Objections and concerns are growing within the local communities, but the government has no plan to call off the Aegis Ashore deployment. At an Upper House Audit Committee session held on June 18 after the U.S.-North Korea summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pressed by the opposition camp to reconsider the deployment with tensions between the U.S. and North Korea easing. But he emphasized that the plan remains unchanged, by saying that “the Aegis Ashore system will contribute to our overall deterrence and we must beef up our defense capabilities truly needed to protect the people.”

 

A Maritime Self-Defense Force official noted that if the deployment of Aegis Ashore batteries complements the current defense alert system structured by four Aegis vessels on stage “we don’t need to keep the Aegis ships to the Sea of Japan all the times” and stressed that the ships can be used for missions other than missile defense.

 

In addition, what the government cannot overlook is its relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who presses Japan to “buy American products.” The Aegis Ashore system is produced by Lockheed Martin and costs slightly less than 100 billion yen per unit. The procurement will be based on a foreign military sales (FMS) contract between the Japanese and U.S. governments.

 

The procurement of four “SM3 Block IIA” interceptor missiles, which are currently under joint development between Japan and the U.S. for Aegis Ashore installation, and related equipment is estimated to cost about 15 billion yen. “Our deployment of the Aegis Ashore systems will please President Trump,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Defense. (Abridged)

 

 Aegis Ashore deployment plan

Start of operation

Around fiscal 2023

Costs

Slightly less than 100 billion yen per battery; missiles and relevant equipment estimated to cost 15 billion yen.

Personnel

Several hundred personnel expected to be based for operation and security.

Operation

Gov’t plans to introduce Aegis Ashore against ballistic missiles, and expected to mount “SM6” interceptor missiles against cruise missiles in the future.

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