Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono said on Thursday that the government has decided to scrap a plan to deploy land-based missile defence systems, made by the US, at two sites in the country.
The decision was made at a National Security Council meeting convened on Wednesday at which Kono officially told a meeting of Japan’s main governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) about retracting the plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore missile systems, reports Xinhua news agency.
“After deliberations at the National Security Council, we have come to the decision to cancel the deployment in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures,” Kono told LDP lawmakers.
He also said the Ministry had struggled to find alternate sites for the two missile batteries.
Kono had already indicated last week that the deployment of the Aegis Ashore missile systems in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures would be halted owing to major technical issues and mounting costs.
Japan first decided to deploy the two missile defence systems in 2017.
Kono said on June 16, one day after he unexpectedly announced the plan was unfeasible, that the initial decision to deploy the two missile batteries was “correct at the time”.
But in a U-turn on the matter, Kono told a House of Representatives Security Committee that while the decision may have been the right one at the time, it can no longer “be deemed rational given the cost and time required to prepare for its operation”.
The 180-billion-yen ($1.7 billion) missile defence system, of which 12 billion yen has already been paid to the US, was supposed to be online in fiscal 2025 and aimed to operate in support of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (MSDF) Aegis-equipped destroyers.
Kono, however, said that guaranteeing the rocket booster of the system’s interceptor missile would, after a launch, land in a designated Self-Defense Force training area or the sea, was no longer a promise the Defence Ministry could keep, without the hardware being further reconfigured.
The costs involved in further modifying the Aegis Ashore’s Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor to address its technical issues, would equal the 200 billion yen and more than 10 years already spent in enhancing the technology, Kono said.
The plan has, since its conception, has met with a myriad of problems, including a strong public backlash from residents in the two proposed sites.
The Defence Ministry, in addition, has also come under fire for initially using flawed data to select sites for hosting the controversial land-based missile launcher systems.