Japan Suspends Aegis Ashore Deployment

July/August 2020

Japan will not deploy two U.S.-made Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense systems designed to protect Japan against North Korean ballistic missiles, officials announced in June, citing growing financial costs, unresolved technical issues, and local opposition.

“Due to considerations of cost and timing, we have stopped the process of introducing the Aegis Ashore system,” said Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono on June 15. The cost was too high, he said, to develop enough confidence that the system’s rocket booster would not fall on Japanese residents and buildings after detaching from the interceptor. Attempts to revise the missile’s software to ensure this outcome had failed, and costly hardware modifications will be necessary, Kono said. Japanese officials had proposed to site the two systems at the north and south ends of the nation’s main island, a decision met with protests from local communities and officials.

Purchasing, operating, and maintaining the two Aegis Ashore systems for 30 years had been estimated to cost about $4.2 billion, and Japan has already invested about $1.8 billion in the project, according to Japanese news sources.

With the cancellation, Japan’s missile defense capabilities will now rely solely on naval vessels armed with Aegis weapons. Japan plans to deploy eight such destroyers, the last of which began sea trials in June and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2021, Defense News reported.—MACKENZIE KNIGHT