Japan moved closer to the introduction of a U.S. anti-ballistic missile shield, with Defense Minister Tomomi Inada saying such systems would strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities.

“We are investigating future systems for intercepting missiles,” Inada told reporters Friday in Tokyo. The government doesn’t have a concrete plan to introduce the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country, but Defense Ministry and military officials are “considering what can be done,” she said.

Japan, which faces a growing threat from North Korea, already has a two-layer ballistic missile defense system. Ship-based SM-3 interceptors target missiles in space and land-based PAC-3 batteries aim to intercept them as they near the ground. THAAD, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., is capable of intercepting missiles in or outside the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the company’s website.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported Thursday that the government will set up a panel to consider the issue, and Inada would visit Guam next month to inspect the technology at a U.S. base. The introduction of THAAD would cost hundreds of billions of yen, the paper said.

South Korea has already agreed to the deployment of THAAD on its territory, and this week signed a defense intelligence agreement with Japan. China has condemned South Korea’s move to introduce THAAD, saying the shield could be applied to it. Russia has also opposed it being stationed in Asia.

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