Fears Over U.S. Missile Shield in a Japan Suburb Hobble Abe’s Plan (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg News; published Sept. 05, 2019)
By Isabel Reynolds and Emi Nobuhiro
The sleepy northwestern Japanese suburb of Araya seemed like the perfect place for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put a U.S. anti-missile system. The area had reliably backed the ruling party and had first-hand experience of a North Korean rocket flying overhead.

That is, until residents began to worry that Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Aegis Ashore system might make their pocket of homes nestled near rice fields and the sea a prime target for Pyongyang in any conflict. Opposition quickly rallied against the project, helping oust an upper house lawmaker from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in July and forcing the Defense Ministry to redo site surveys.

“I don’t think Aegis Ashore is needed, but at least I want them not to put it right next to this residential area,” said independent lawmaker Shizuka Terata, 44, who defeated the LDP incumbent in a district that had supported the party in 14 of the past 19 elections. “As the mother of a child, I hated the idea.”

The push back is the latest sign of the limits of Abe’s efforts to balance Japan’s deep-seated pacifism with renewed threats from North Korea and a demanding ally in U.S. President Donald Trump. The $5 billion anti-missile system faces a likely delay if not a bigger rethink: the Defense Ministry’s 2020 budget request includes money for purchasing the missile interceptors, but none for preparing the site.

Moving ahead with the plan would require Abe to either push past or win over local opposition, with 60% of Akita residents opposed to the deployment, according to a July poll by the local Sakigake Shinpo newspaper. Another alternative is to pick another site in northern Japan, at the risk of sparking a similar reaction. (end of excerpt)


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