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Japan to build two more Aegis destroyers to boost missile defense

JIJI

The Defense Ministry plans to order two more Aegis destroyers capable of intercepting ballistic missiles in view of the continuing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, government sources said Tuesday.

The ministry will soon start negotiations with the Finance Ministry on the plan to bring the number of Aegis destroyers operated by the Maritime Self-Defense Force to eight.

The Defense Ministry intends to include the plan in new defense guidelines that spell out Japan’s security policies for the coming decade. The government will draw up the guidelines by the end of the year.

The ministry plans to put the two new vessels into commission during the decade covered by the new guidelines.

Four of the MSDF’s six Aegis destroyers are currently equipped with the missile defense system that can shoot down ballistic missiles in space. The other two are being fitted with the system.

At least two are needed to cover the entire Japanese archipelago with the ballistic missile defense system, though more provide better protection. However, at least one is always in port for required maintenance.

To deal with a long-range ballistic missile threat from North Korea last December, the MSDF deployed two Aegis destroyers in the East China Sea and one in the Sea of Japan.

In the spring, two were deployed in the Sea of Japan to brace for the launch of North Korea’s Musudan medium-range missiles as the other two were undergoing maintenance. As the threat continued, some critics pointed out the inadequacy of the missile defense structure.

Meanwhile, China has stepped up its maritime and aerial activities around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.