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Defense Minister Taro Kono visited Yamaguchi Prefecture on Friday to apologize to communities affected by the government’s sudden decision to cancel the Aegis Ashore missile defense project.

“We deeply apologize for reaching a conclusion like this,” Kono said at a meeting with Yamaguchi Gov. Tsugumasa Muraoka at the prefectural government’s offices.

The government canceled the deployment of the land-based interceptor system because boosters separating from its missiles might land on a residential area.

The governor criticized the government for failing to detect a danger “directly linked to residents’ lives” earlier.

The Aegis Ashore plan “has caused an unnecessary divide among residents,” said Hagi Mayor Kenji Fujimichi, who also attended the meeting. Hagi and the neighboring town of Abu, which host a Ground Self-Defense Force training area, were picked as a candidate site for Aegis Ashore last year.

In late May this year, however, the ministry learned through talks with the United States that it would take about 12 years and cost over ¥200 billion to revise the system to ensure the missile boosters fall within the GSDF training area.

Then on Monday, Kono announced the decision to halt the Aegis Ashore deployment plan.

On Sunday, Kono is slated to go north to visit Akita Prefecture, where the ministry had planned to deploy another Aegis Ashore battery needed to defend Japan.

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