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LDP defense panel chief says “Aegis Ashore” needed

  • September 12, 2018
  • , Mainichi , p. 11
  • JMH Translation

Interview with Liberal Democratic Party National Defense Division Director Kenji Wakamiya

 

The government earmarked purchase costs for “Aegis Ashore,” a land-based missile interception system, in the FY2019 budgetary request. The system is part of enforcing Japan’s defense strength needed for responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development that has entered a new phase. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) incorporated this in the policy proposal compiled in May aimed at reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines. North Korea launched about a total of 40 missiles in about two years until last summer during which I was state minister of defense. The DPRK fired those missiles during different hours with different flight paths, and the number of missiles fired differed each time. So we had to be on alert around the clock. In order for Japan to be able to respond to such a threat posed by North Korea, Japan dispatched Aegis warships of the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Sea of Japan, where they were on standby. However, their capability is limited. We need backup ships to be deployed there in rotation. In winter, MSDF vessels have to operate under very rough sea conditions due to bad weather.

 

If Japan introduces Aegis Ashore, the two systems are capable of covering the entire Japan and we can deploy MSDF ships currently deployed for missile defense to other territorial waters including the East China Sea and the southwest region. Taking into account the fact that China remains active in its maritime advancement, I can say that such an arrangement is an efficient allocation of defense capabilities. Even before the Trump administration came into office, Japan had already considered deploying a missile defense system. We made our own decision to introduce Aegis Ashore, not told by the U.S. to “buy the American system.” Aegis Ashore is not inexpensive at all, but we need to pay to a certain extent for a missile interception system since there is no other system that is as capable as Aegis Ashore and their production capability is also limited. The Japan-U.S. alliance is one of the extraordinarily strong alliances in the world and it is quite natural for Japan to introduce the system.

 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is aiming to spend up to 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. Giving thought to this, I think Japan should secure a necessary and sufficient amount of defense spending. We should no longer take it into account whether defense spending will exceed the threshold of 1% of GDP. Besides defense spending, bearing in mind the unexpected natural disasters that recently took place, the government should allocate budgets optimally and effectively to create an environment where the people can live safely.

 

It is also important to maintain and enhance the defense production and technological basis. We should avoid escalating the arms race. But when it’s clear that they will have high-performance and high-functioning equipment, Japan should not just stand idly by. Japan needs to have a certain level of technological capability to cooperate with other countries in developing defense equipment. Otherwise, Japan cannot take the lead in the development of defense equipment on an equal basis. As the automobile industry has done, if Japan can raise its international competitiveness in the defense area, it would lead to the growth of ijndustry.

 

I think it’s most important to build a “soft security network.” When I made an on-site inspection in South Sudan as a state minister of defense, the commander and female soldiers of the Cambodian Royal Arms Forces thanked me for the SDF’s UN peacekeeping operation (PKO) in Cambodia in 1992, which I can never forget. Japan should build favorable relationships with as many foreign countries as possible through PKO, Capacity Building Assistance and the development of equipment. As a result, they would be convinced that Japan is a trustworthy partner. That is the ultimate way of international contribution and a path toward a permanent peace.

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