Japan's Defense Minister announced Monday the country will cancel plans to deploy a costly, land-based U.S. missile defense system designed to counter escalating threats from North Korea.
Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters he has decided to "stop the deployment process" of the Aegis Ashore missile system after discovering safety concerns regarding two communities near where the system would be based.
Kono said the way the system was currently designed, they could not guarantee that the rocket booster from the missile system would not fall outside the Ground Self-Defense Force's Mutsumi base in Yamaguchi, southwestern Japan.
The defense minister said he consulted with U.S. officials and realized it would take a hardware repair, as well as a software modification, to fix the problem, which he says would be too time-consuming and costly.
The Japanese government had approved adding the $3.2 billion missile defense systems in 2017 to bolster the country's current defenses — Aegis-equipped destroyers at sea and Patriot missiles on land.
Defense officials said the two Aegis Ashore units could cover Japan entirely from one station at Yamaguchi in the south and another at Akita in the north.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will now have to reconsider Japan's missile defense program.