The government is poised to abandon its plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system, officials said Sunday.
Japan’s National Security Council will make an official decision to withdraw the plan to deploy the system in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures in the near future. An alternative to the plan will be worked out by the end of summer.
Last week, Defense Minister Taro Kono announced a halt to the Aegis Ashore deployment plan. But a U.S. defense official expressed a view that Kono did not say the plan would be abandoned, suggesting a readiness to continue discussions with Japan on the Aegis Ashore deployment.
Japan is expected have difficulties as it needs to keep in step with the United States in order to deal with the increasing threat from North Korean ballistic missiles.
After the NSC decision, the government will revise its current National Defense Program Guidelines and Medium-Term Defense Program, both adopted by the Cabinet in 2018.
The government will also consider making its first revision to the National Security Strategy, adopted in 2013 as medium- to long-term foreign and security policy guidelines.
Kono visited Akita on Sunday to discuss the matter and apologized to Gov. Norihisa Satake. On Friday, Kono visited Yamaguchi for similar purposes.
At his meeting with Satake in Akita, Kono said the deployment plan was halted because it would take more than ¥200 billion and at least 10 years to fix technical problems to ensure that interceptor missile boosters fall safely into unpopulated areas.
“We’ve had to make this decision after all the trouble we caused for such a long time. I deeply apologize,” Kono told Satake.
The Defense Ministry failed to check the deployment plan appropriately, Satake said, blaming the ministry for its handling of the matter.
As for the planned Aegis Ashore deployment in Akita, the ministry encountered many problems, including having conducted an erroneous geographical survey. In addition, a ministry official drew fire for having fallen asleep during a briefing with Akita residents.
“Public trust in national defense has also been damaged,” Satake also said.