National / Politics

Defense chief apologizes to Yamaguchi governor for faulty Aegis survey

Kyodo

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya apologized Wednesday to Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka over a mistake in a geographical survey conducted by the ministry that was used to select the prefecture as a candidate site for a U.S.-developed missile defense system.

“We’ll conduct the survey again and offer an explanation in detail,” Iwaya told Muraoka at the prefectural office.

A Ground Self-Defense Force training area in Yamaguchi has been listed as one of two sites considered suitable to host the land-based Aegis Ashore system to counter the threat of North Korean missiles.

The defense minister sought the understanding of local residents over the need to deploy the missile defense system, saying, “Taking all possible measures will lead to the defense of Japanese citizens.”

Muraoka demanded that the ministry ensure similar problems do not happen again. “The survey data is the most important basis for assessing the possible impact of the missile system on our region,” he said, adding, “We urge you never to repeat such a mistake.”

The ministry has been under fire since numerical mistakes were found in peak elevation angles, calculated on the basis of Google Earth map data, in the survey of potential sites for the anti-ballistic missile system in the Tohoku region.

In another survey of the GSDF’s Mutsumi training area, which straddles Hagi and Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the elevation of a hill near the site, also calculated using data from Google Earth, did not match that provided by the governmental Geopolitical Information Authority of Japan.

The ministry recorded an elevation 2 meters higher than the actual figure, but has said it had no substantial influence on the selection of the training area as a candidate site.

Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada asked Iwaya to give up on the deployment plan, saying, “The whole town is against it.” He was present at the meeting at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Government office together with Hagi Mayor Kenji Fujimichi.

Fujimichi said, “It cannot be helped that such erroneous data is called untrustworthy.”

Last month, the defense minister apologized to Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake and Akita Mayor Motomu Hozumi over faulty survey data related to the other candidate site — a GSDF training area in the city’s Araya district.

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

But the angles for all nine locations were miscalculated as steeper than they actually are. Areas close to high mountains that block radio waves emitted by radar are viewed as undesirable for the missile system.

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