National

Akita governor blasts Defense Ministry over missile defense system survey errors

Kyodo

Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake criticized the Defense Ministry on Monday for making errors in the geographical survey that was used to select the prefecture as a candidate for hosting Aegis Ashore missile launchers.

A ministry official was also caught snoozing when local residents were briefed Saturday about the numerical mistakes in the elevation angles of mountains, prompting some participants to demand an apology.

“It’s truly regrettable,” Satake said during a session of the prefectural assembly, regarding the ministry’s survey. “I’ve found the Defense Ministry’s stance extremely questionable, and we’re back to square one on this issue.”

In Tokyo, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Monday, “We’re very sorry. It was inappropriate as the behavior lacked a sense of alertness in such an extremely important situation.”

The briefing was held Saturday and Sunday. A resident who attended Saturday pointed out that one of the ministry officials who was at the event was dozing during the session, which was also attended by Tohoku Defense Bureau chief Shigeki Ito.

On Sunday, Ito started the session with an apology, saying, “The official (who was caught snoozing) is deeply reflecting on himself for behaving like that at a very important place and I will also deeply apologize.”

The ministry has said the incorrect information was released after the angles of elevation were calculated based on figures measured with a ruler without noticing that the scales of maps used for checking height and distance were different.

In the geographical survey released in May, the ministry checked the elevation angles at nine out of 19 candidate locations in Tohoku for possible deployment.

But the angles for all of the nine locations came out steeper than they actually are. Areas close to high mountains, which block radio waves emitted by radar, are said to be undesirable for the missile system.

The ministry, which intends to deploy two batteries to counter the threat of North Korean missiles, has listed a Ground Self-Defense Force training area straddling Abu and Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture and another exercise area in the Araya district of Akita Prefecture as potential sites for the system.