Japan's Defence Minister, Taro Kono, has announced his decision to suspend plans to deploy the American missile defence system Aegis Ashore in Japan.
“In view of the cost and (more) time (needed) for the deployment, we will halt the process,” said Kono on Monday. He added, "considering the cost and time it would require, I had no choice but to judge that pursuing the plan is not logical."
These two batteries were meant to counter the threat of North Korean ballistic missiles. This came after several ballistic missiles launches by North Korea.
The technical difficulty lies in the fact that it was not easy to ensure that the rocket booster of an interceptor missile would land in a Self-Defense Forces training area or the sea, as promised, without hardware modifications, reports Japan Times.
On Tuesday at press conference Kono said:
"Through discussions between Japan and the US, the fact was that we made a judgment that improving the software would enable (the rocket boosters to fall in areas deemed safe).” He added: “In retrospect, we can’t refute criticism that our understanding was overly optimistic.”
The decision to deploy Aegis Ashore in Japan was made in 2017, the system expected to go into operation in fiscal 2025 at the earliest.
Aegis Ashore is a land-based version of the ship-based Aegis ballistic missile and air defence system. The system will be capable of operating Standard Missile 3 Block IIA interceptor missiles as well as Standard Missile 6 interceptors. In addition to the now-scrapped plans for a deployment in Akita prefecture, the Japanese government has identified a site at Yamaguchi prefecture for the second Aegis Ashore installation.