On Tuesday, Japan signaled formal approval in the purchase of the United States’ Aegis missile defense system to counter increasing threats from North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved the proposal to build two Aegis Ashore batteries, and released the following statement:
“North Korea’s nuclear missile development poses a new level of threat to Japan and as we have done in the past we will ensure that we are able to defend ourselves with a drastic improvement in ballistic missile defense.”
Without factoring in the missiles, the cost of sites alone will be at least $2 billion and they are expected to be fully operational by 2023 at the earliest, according to Reuters.
Japan already has Aegis capability on four warships and Patriot missile defense batteries, but the incorporation of the Aegis Ashore system will add additional layers of defense.
The Lockheed Martin-made Aegis Ashore intercepts short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Lockheed describes the system as a “sophisticated collection of phased-array radars, fire control directors, computers and missiles.”
Japan will be the third host of the system. A system is already operational in Romania, and another is currently being built in Poland.
Japanese defense officials have said the country was more interested in the Aegis Ashore than the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) because it is cheaper and more versatile. Officials told The Associated Press they would need at least six THAAD batteries, at $1.1 billion each, to defend Japan.
The deployment of THAAD to South Korea previously caused friction with China, which considers the system’s powerful radars a threat to its own security.
Earlier this year, North Korea conducted two missile tests that flew over Japan. Last month, the dictatorship tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that appeared to put the entire United States in range.
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