Japan considering boosting anti-missile defenses

Considering buying, deploying advanced US anti-missile system amid increasing concern about North Korea’s growing arsenal

Japan considering boosting anti-missile defenses

World Bulletin / News Desk

Increasingly worried about North Korea’s growing arsenal of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, Japan is considering buying and deploying the United States’ most advanced anti-missile system.

After South Korea, Japan would be the second country in Northeast Asia to acquire the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system -- Washington agreed to begin deploying THAAD in South Korea this July.

Japan’s government plans to appropriate around 200 billion yen ($2 billion) in the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 after the first.

Usually this budget is reserved for public works projects to simulate the economy, so it is sign of Tokyo’s growing concern that it would even consider using this budget.

To date, North Korea has conducted two underground nuclear tests and fired off more than 20 ballistic missiles this year.

One of the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan -- also known as the East Sea -- less than 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from the shoreline of Japan.

There is growing speculation that the North is getting close to developing a deliverable nuclear weapon by marrying a miniaturized nuclear warhead to a missile.

At the time of the second test, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the threat from Pyongyang was in a “different dimension” than previous tests.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is planning to make a trip soon to Guam in part to examine the THAAD system first hand.

Washington deployed the THAAD system to Guam in 2013 because of the looming threat from North Korea.

Pyongyang has successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missies with sufficient range to potentially reach Guam.

It has numerous other smaller and midsized missiles capable of hitting targets in Japan and South Korea.

In her public statements, Inada has been very circumspect, saying only that the ministry is “investigating future systems for intercepting missiles”.

As yet there is no specific plan to acquire the new missiles.

Last July, South Korea agreed to deploy THAAD missile interceptors in the country, citing the threat from its neighbor.

That brought a complaint from Beijing that the missile defense system was aimed at Chinese missiles launched from China and not North Korean missiles from North Korea. It has not commented on Japan’s plans as yet.

The immediate political context raises questions that might complicate the deployment.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is embroiled in a scandal that might force her resignation -- then would the opposition continue to support THAAD?

At the same time, a new president is preparing to take office in the U.S. in January.

In this case, Japan’s acquisition of the new missile defense system might fit well with President-elect Donald Trump’s position that allied nations should do more for their own self-defense.

Japan currently has two anti-missile systems.

The Standard Missile 3 is carried aboard Aegis destroyers in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. It is complemented by the Patriot Advance Capability (PAC)-3 surface-to-air missile on land.

The THAAD system would provide a third element to Japan’s missile defenses by introducing a system that is capable of disabling or shooting down ballistic missiles as they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and elude the other two systems.12/4/16

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Last Mod: 04 Aralık 2016, 11:35
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