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The government should work more closely with university-based research institutes on the missile shield project it is pursuing with the United States, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said Tuesday.

“We’ll have to increase interaction between the defense community and academia,” he said before the House of Representatives Budget Committee, referring to the importance of improving defense technology overall.

He criticized the atmosphere at universities and other research organizations, which he characterized as aloof toward the defense community. “It looks as if they believe that they should not interact with what the Defense Agency is doing, or that there should be no interaction between the academic and the defense circles,” Ishiba said.

Ishiba cited the bilateral project as one specific area of increased cooperation with research organizations. Now in the research stage, the aim of the portion of the project pertaining to Japan is to develop a shield to protect the nation from ballistic missiles.

The defense chief’s remarks came after a New Komeito lawmaker suggested that the government’s next basic plan on science and technology include defense research and development involving the state, industry and academia.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, state minister in charge of science and technology policy, responded cautiously.

“We’ll consider the matter with society’s needs in mind,” he said.

Ishiba also suggested that a giant structure floating at sea could be used by U.S. Navy planes off the carrier USS Kitty Hawk as an alternative night landing practice site instead of the Atsugi Naval Air Facility in Kanagawa Prefecture.

“We could use various kinds of scientific technology. We’d like to look into every possibility,” he told the committee.

The government is seeking an alternative site because the base, which the navy shares with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, is located in a densely populated area and local residents have complained about the noise.

Plans to relocate the night-landing site to an uninhabited island in the Seto Inland Sea were scuttled earlier this month after the town of Okimi, Hiroshima Prefecture, officially rejected them.

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