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U.S. could use Aegis Ashore missile-defense system in Japan to attack others, Russian foreign minister says

Kyodo, JIJI

Russia “seriously doubts” that a U.S.-made missile defense system to be deployed by Japan will be controlled by Tokyo and suspects the system could be used by Washington to launch attacks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

Lavrov told a news conference Monday that the deployment of the land-based Aegis Ashore missile-defense system, which the Japanese government aims to bring into operation in fiscal 2023 amid the growing North Korea threat, would cast a shadow over Moscow’s ties with Tokyo.

“We do not know of a single example around the globe in which the United States has deployed its weapons only to place the controls in the hands of the host country. I have very strong doubts the United States will make an exception” with the deployment in Japan, Lavrov said.

In seeking Russia’s understanding, the Japanese government has said the system, which would increase its ability to intercept missiles launched at Japanese territory from North Korea, will be operated by Tokyo and not pose a threat to Japan-Russia ties.

Russia views the deployment of Aegis Ashore in Japan and elsewhere as part of a global U.S. missile-defense system.

Lavrov said Russia has many questions regarding the U.S. system and urged Tokyo to provide “more convincing” data through dialogue with Japan’s National Security Council.

During the news conference, Lavrov also said Russia is ready to help the United States and North Korea hold direct dialogue, in a bid to ease tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

Lavrov said he expects nothing productive from a meeting on the North Korean nuclear issue among foreign ministers from concerned countries in Vancouver that was to kick off Tuesday, as Russia and China were not invited.