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Tokyo approves deployment of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in Japan

Tokyo approves deployment of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems in Japan

Aegis Ashore will also be able to control the launches of other interceptor missiles created to shoot down enemy high-speed cruise missiles moving along a complex trajectory.

Under Japan's current two-way missile defense system, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) carried by the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis destroyers can intercept ballistic missiles, and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ground-to-air guided missile operated by the Air Self-Defense Force can shoot them down if the SM-3 fails to intercept them.

Japan chose Aegis Ashore ahead of other land-based missile defenses, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system that the USA recently deployed to South Korea.

Officials say they hope the systems are ready for operation by 2023.

"North Korea's nuclear and missile development has become a greater and more imminent threat for Japan's national security, and we need to drastically improve our ballistic missile defence capability to protect Japan continuously and sustainably", a statement issued by the cabinet said.

One Aegis Ashore unit is known to cost close to 100 billion yen which is about 966 billion won.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet had formally ratified the plans on Tuesday, 19 December, to set up two Aegis Ashore batteries that will cover entire Japanese territory.

Officials declined to give details about potential sites for Aegis Ashore deployment, while Japanese reports cited Self-Defence Force bases in Akita, northern Japan, and Yamaguchi in the south west.

Last month, President Donald Trump urged Prime Minister Abe to purchase more US military equipment amid threats from North Korea.

Last month, North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that plunged into the waters of Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Aegis Ashore can be compatible with the ship-based Aegis systems that are on four Japanese destroyers and also could work with SM-6 interceptors capable of shooting down cruise missiles, defense officials said.

The new Aegis stations may not, however, come with a powerful radar, dubbed Spy-6, which is being developed by the United States.

Japanese defense officials also considered purchasing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, another USA -built anti-missile system, but chose the Aegis Ashore due to its cost-effectiveness.

Initial funding will be ring-fenced in the next defense budget beginning in April, but no decision has been made on the radar, or the overall cost, or schedule, of the deployment, a Ministry of Defence official said at a press briefing.

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