Japan to Expand Ballistic Missile Defense With Ground-Based Aegis Batteries

A view of the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15's test that was successfully launched in this undated

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"North Korea's nuclear and missile development has become a more serious and imminent threat to our security, entering in a new phase", a Cabinet statement said.

Japan is set to expand its ballistic missile defense capabilities with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet approving the procurement of two land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense systems on December 19, according to local media reports. It is the sea-based component of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD).

Japan is now protected by destroyers equipped with US Aegis missile defense systems as well as surface-to-air Modernized Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) ballistic missile interceptors.

A view of the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15's test was successfully launched is seen in this undated
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Japan will purchase a US -built, land-based missile defense system in response to what it considers the rapidly growing threat from North Korea.

The purchase cost of each system could be at least 100 billion yen ($888 million), Mainchi quoted unnamed Defense Ministry officials as saying Tuesday.

The two units will be able to cover nearly all of the nation's territory and are expected to enhance its ability to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles.

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Last month, President Donald Trump urged Prime Minister Abe to purchase more USA military equipment amid threats from North Korea.

Under Japan's current two-way missile defense system, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) carried by the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis destroyers can intercept ballistic missiles, and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ground-to-air guided missile operated by the Air Self-Defense Force can shoot them down if the SM-3 fails to intercept them.

North Korea on November 29 tested a new, more powerful ballistic missile that it says can hit major USA cities including Washington, and fly over Japan's current defense shield. The Defense Ministry also studied another United States anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, but chose Aegis Ashore due to its cost-effectiveness and other factors, officials said.

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The Aegis Ashore batteries will be armed with SM-3 Block IIA and SM-6 interceptors.

Tokyo is also planning to purchase USA -built long-range cruise missiles, a decision that would prove controversial since Japan's post-World War Two pacifist constitution renounces war.

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