Japan halts plans to deploy Aegis Ashore missile shield, citing costs & technical issues
Tokyo has stopped bringing the US-made Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense sites online on Japanese soil, one month after it suspended plans to deploy an installation in the country’s east following opposition from locals.
The Japanese Defense Ministry has suspended the deployment of the Aegis Ashore systems in Japan, Defense Minister Taro Kono announced on Monday, according to the Kyodo news agency. Without going into detail, Kono attributed the U-turn to overwhelming costs and unspecified “technical problems.”
Kono did not say how long the plans would stay on the backburner. Japan’s military was planning to activate two Aegis Ashore sites, in the Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures, by the year 2023.
The two locations would cover the country’s airspace from both east and west, according to the news agency.
However, residents and local politicians in Akita rebelled against hosting the compound on their lands. They insisted that Aegis operations would take a toll on locals’ health and protested that it would likely become a high-priority target were an armed conflict to break out around Japan
The missile defense systems, designed by a number of American companies including Lockheed and Raytheon, were sold to Japan along with other defense equipment back in January 2019, with the deal totaling an estimated $2.15 billion.
Japan has been one of a few nations tapped to host Aegis Ashore. Far away from the Pacific, one such site has already entered service in Romania, while another is under construction in Poland – right on Russia’s doorstep.
Moscow considered the Aegis deployment an immediate threat to its security, with defense experts claiming the system’s launchers – officially defensive in nature – could easily be converted to fire offensive munitions like Tomahawk cruise missiles.
It also voiced concern over the Japanese deployment plans, saying that placing Aegis Ashore in Japan would “adversely affect the Russian strategic containment arsenal.”
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