TOKYO --- Japan’s decision to scrap two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence systems means it must find other ways to defend a 3,000-kilometre archipelago along Asia’s eastern edge.
Some policy makers want Japan to acquire the capability to attack enemy missiles before they are launched.
In a surprise decision, defence minister Taro Kono recently halted the 2025 deployment of Aegis Ashore because booster rockets used to accelerate SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missiles might fall on communities in northern Akita and southern Yamaguchi prefectures.
That problem, according to military experts, has been known since Japan picked Aegis Ashore in 2018. The interceptor was developed for use at sea, where debris would fall harmlessly.
“From the beginning, the Japanese government’s story was impossible. I was a missile shooter, I knew how difficult it would be to control the fall of burned-out boosters,” former Maritime Self Defense Force admiral Yoji Koda, who commanded Japan’s naval fleet from 2007 to 2008, told Reuters.
The expense of Aegis Ashore project also affected Kono’s decision.
Japan's Aegis Ashore contracts are worth around $1.7 billion, with more than $100 million already spent. Over 30 years the defense ministry estimated the budget at around $4 billion, not including missile tests that sources last year said could cost at least $500 million. (end of excerpt)
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