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The Defense Ministry said Thursday it has pushed back the deadline for an additional survey of potential locations for deploying the planned Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system.

The deadline for examining locations in the three prefectures of Aomori, Akita and Yamagata was moved from Sunday to July 10.

The third postponement resulted from delays in work by survey contractors due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The deadline, initially set for the end of March, had been put back by one month twice for a similar reason.

In May last year, the ministry said its surveys found that the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Araya training area in Akita was the most appropriate site for an Aegis Ashore unit.

But the ministry scrapped the plan to deploy the equipment there as opposition from local residents grew stronger after a series of blunders including survey errors. Locals are also concerned that the site is too close to residential areas.

The ministry is trying to find a potential deployment site in the prefecture.

Defense Minister Taro Kono is expected to visit the potential deployment site to seek understanding from locals before a final decision is made.

The visit is expected to happen after a planned removal of requests for voluntary restrictions on travel across prefectural borders set for June 19.

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