Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera will travel to Hawaii in January to visit the U.S. test facility for a land-based missile-defense system that Japan plans to deploy, government sources said.
Japan plans to introduce the Aegis Ashore system to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The United States conducts missile intercept tests at the complex on Kauai that Onodera will visit. Japan hopes to learn more about the system’s operations and issues it should take into account when deploying it, the sources said Saturday.
Onodera is also expected to hold talks with Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, during his visit to further improve bilateral cooperation through the missile defense system, the sources added.
Aegis Ashore is similar to the missile defense system on Japan’s Aegis-equipped destroyers, but is expected to reduce the workload of the Self-Defense Forces during missile intercept operations because Aegis Ashore installations are placed at a fixed locations on land.
The government is expected to set aside funds when it drafts the fiscal 2018 budget next month to cover part of the costs of deploying the new missile system.