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Japan ‘can no longer move forward’ with $2 billion US missile defense system

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe removes his face mask during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool/Zuma Press/TNS)
June 21, 2020

Japan has halted its plans for a multibillion-dollar missile system developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. due to major new costs and delays.

The costs and delays stem from modifications that are needed to ensure debris from the system do not endanger local residents, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Following talks with the United States, significant hardware changes were clearly needed to ensure that rocket boosters from interceptor missiles fired from the batteries fall in designated safe areas, Japan’s defense ministry said on Monday.

“Due to considerations of cost and timing, we have stopped the process of introducing the Aegis Ashore system,” Defense Minister Taro Kono said.


The system was scheduled to be deployed around 2025, with Lockheed Martin developing two Aegis Ashore batteries. The system would be used in northern and southern Japan to provide a new layer of defense against ballistic missiles.

The cost of the system in 2017 was $2.1 billion. At the time, there were heightened concerns about the threat from North Korea.

Designed to smash into and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, the changes to the interceptors will be expensive and take a significant amount of time to develop. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will head the plans, which will be referred to the National Security Council.

“At the National Security Council, we’ll now fully discuss measures necessary to protect Japan,” Abe said.

“Protecting the people and their peaceful daily lives is an important mission of the government,” he added. “We mustn’t leave a blank in our defense policy.”

Lockheed Martin and Aegis Ashore both said they would work with Japan to address any issues the country has. Aegis Ashore further stated it would provide Japan with a fixed shield against ballistic missiles.

The northern prefecture of Akita opposes the defense ministry’s location of one of the two new batteries, as residents are concerned about the electromagnetic waves from the system and the possibility that it would make the area a military target.

An independent candidate to represent Akita who campaigned against the Aegis system won an election in Japan’s Upper House of parliament.

Residents in Akita were told that the rocket debris would fall into the sea, but the decision on Monday confirmed hardware changes were needed to ensure that would happen.

“We’ve understood that we can no longer proceed with the program after a change to its preconditions,” Abe said.

President Trump has called on allies like Japan to buy more defense hardware made by U.S. companies. Japan has ramped up its military spending in recent years, and most of that spending has been on U.S. systems such as the F-35 fighter jet.