In this Jan 10, 2020, file photo, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono speaks during a press conference at his ministry in Tokyo. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP)
The 180-billion-yen (US$1.7 billion) missile defense system, was supposed to be online by 2025 and was meant to operate in support of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's (MSDF) Aegis-equipped destroyers
The decision was made at a National Security Council meeting convened Wednesday at which Kono officially told a meeting of Japan's main governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) about canceling the plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore missile systems.
"After deliberations at the National Security Council, we have come to the decision to cancel the deployment in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures," Kono told LDP lawmakers. He also said the ministry had struggled to find alternate sites for the two missile batteries.
Kono had already indicated last week that the deployment of the Aegis Ashore missile systems in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures would be halted owing to major technical issues and mounting costs.
Japan first decided to deploy the two missile defense systems, made by the United States, in 2017. Kono said on June 16, one day after he unexpectedly announced that the plan was unfeasible, that the initial decision to deploy the two missile batteries was "correct at the time."
But making a U-turn on the matter, Kono told a House of Representatives Security Committee that while the decision may have been the right one at the time, it can no longer "be deemed rational given the cost and time required to prepare for its operation."
The 180-billion-yen (US$1.7 billion) missile defense system, of which 12 billion yen (US$112 million) has already been paid to the United States, was supposed to be online by 2025 and was meant to operate in support of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's (MSDF) Aegis-equipped destroyers.
Kono, however, said that guaranteeing the rocket booster of the system's interceptor missile would, after a launch, land in a designated Self-Defense Force training area or the sea, was no longer a promise the defense ministry could keep, without the hardware being further reconfigured.
The costs involved in further modifying the Aegis Ashore's Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor to address its technical issues, would equal the 200 billion yen (US$1.86 billion) and the more than 10 years already spent in enhancing the technology, Kono said.
The plan has, since its conception, been met by a myriad of problems aside from mounting costs, including but not limited to a staunch public backlash from residents in candidate sites for the Aegis Ashore system.
The defense ministry has also come under fire for initially using flawed data to select sites for hosting the controversial land-based missile launcher systems.
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