• Jiji

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Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi has said that the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance “has reached an unprecedented level” due to “an increasingly harsh national security environment.”

In an interview, Kishi, who took office on Sept. 16 under the administration of new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, said that he wants to “further boost the alliance’s deterrence and response capabilities,” and that he will work with the United States on introducing in Japan a missile defense system in place of the scrapped plan to deploy Aegis Ashore land-based interceptors.

“I would like to continue cooperating closely with the United States to consider a plan to deploy (Aegis Ashore) components to a mobile maritime platform,” he said. “We need opportunities to directly speak with U.S. Department of Defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper.” He also revealed a plan to visit the United States for such talks.

On the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in the city of Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko coastal district in Nago, Kishi reiterated the government position that it is the only viable solution.

“The fundamental point of the problem is to remove the danger of the Futenma base, which is surrounded by houses and schools, and is therefore said to be the most dangerous military base in the world, and to return the base site to the Japanese side,” he said. “We must never leave it as dangerous as it is.”

“If the needs to remove the danger and maintain deterrence powers of the Japan-U.S. alliance are taken into consideration, relocating the Futenma base to Henoko is the only solution,” Kishi said.

The minister also said that Japan must “think comprehensively” about whether to acquire enemy base strike capabilities as a form of defense.

“We must secure the necessary capabilities to protect our nation,” he said, adding that Japan needs to acquire technology that can respond to the increasing range of missiles.

On how the country can protect its domestic defense industry, Kishi said that securing human resources was “the most important task.”

“In addition to the conventional realms of land, sea and air, there are new fields, such as space, cyberspace and electromagnetic waves, so we need human resources who can respond,” he said.

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