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Gov’t struggles to deter U.S.’s opposition to giving up Aegis Ashore plan

The government is taking pains to prevent its decision to effectively give up a plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore ground-based missile defense system from affecting its relations with the U.S. It is poised to prevent a “void” from being created in Japan-U.S. security cooperation by purchasing some equipment, including radars, for which contracts have already been signed as previously scheduled.


“We’ve already notified the U.S. of our decision to halt the deployment process in advance. The U.S. understands that we will continue to strengthen our missile defense capabilities.”


At a joint meeting with Komeito’s research commission on diplomacy and security and other groups on June 25, Defense Minister Taro Kono underscored that coordination with the U.S. is going smoothly. 


Also, at a joint meeting with the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Defense Division and Research Commission on National Security, Kono reportedly explained, “We’d like to consider whether the radars and the launch system for which contracts have already been completed with the U.S. can be used for an alternative plan.” The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has already made Aegis Ashore-related contracts worth 178.7 billion yen with a major U.S. firm and others.


U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to cut the U.S. trade deficit with Japan by having Japan purchase American equipment. The government seems to be trying to deter the U.S.’s opposition to its decision not to introduce the Aegis Ashore by continuing to purchase components.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is also desperate to reduce friction with Washington to the degree possible. A senior MOFA official confesses that the Japanese government is explaining to the U.S. government that it will “not cancel the plan but suspend it.”


Another senior MOFA official did not hesitate to express displeasure with Kono, who used the term “withdrawal” at a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the morning of June 25. The executive stressed to reporters, “The deployment [of the Aegis Ashore] is difficult, but we’ll continue to give it consideration.”


Later this year, Japan and the U.S. will negotiate a revision to the special measures agreement, which obliges Japan to pay for the costs of stationing U.S. troops in Japan. The government wants to show its willingness to abide by the existing defense cooperation in order to avoid a request from the U.S. for an excessive increase in payment.


The U.S. government is taking the stance of observing Japan’s discussion [of the Aegis Ashore deployment]. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency of the Department of Defense, touched on Tokyo’s suspension of the deployment process in a speech on June 23. He expressed understanding, saying: “I’m not necessarily shocked. There’re some options and we’ll work together (with Japan).”


Also, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey said during a telephone interview on June 18, “We’ll continue talks with Japan and find a way to ensure our continued close cooperation with the Japanese government regarding missile defense.” He refrained from expressing concern.



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