WASHINGTON – The United States has told Japan that it plans to begin deploying interceptor missiles in 2008 under the countries’ joint missile-defense initiative, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Friday.
The U.S. plan, unofficially conveyed to Japan, is likely to put further pressure on Tokyo to advance to the development stage of the missile-defense initiative at an earlier date.
Under a bilateral accord agreed to in September 1998, the two countries are currently conducting a joint study on a system to protect Japan — and U.S. forces deployed in the country — from medium-range missiles.
The study focuses on four primary components of interceptor missiles for a system employing destroyers equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis defense system.
The Japanese government, however, is undecided on whether to move to the development stage because it has yet to define a clear position on whether the initiative would lead Japan being able to exercise its right to collective defense or the right to help allies under foreign attack.
The government interprets Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution as banning the exercise of such rights.
The administration of President George W. Bush is planning to deploy multilayered missile defense networks around the world. It hopes to integrate systems to protect the U.S. homeland from intercontinental ballistic missiles with those to shield its allies and U.S. forces abroad from medium-range missiles.
If a Japanese missile-defense system is incorporated into Bush’s missile-defense plan, it would go against Japan’s policy of not taking part in collective defense.
Under the U.S. plan, the missiles would be deployed aboard Aegis destroyers belonging to Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. This would occur at a later date because it will take time to adapt the systems for integrated operations between the U.S. Navy and the MSDF.
At talks in Tokyo on Oct. 21 with James Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said he believes Japan should advance to the development stage at an early date.
At a working-level security meeting at the Pentagon on Oct. 23, the U.S. urged the Japanese government to make an early decision on whether they would move up the date.
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