“North Korea’s nuclear and missile development has become a greater and more imminent threat for Japan’s national security, and we need to drastically improve our ballistic missile defense capability to protect Japan continuously and sustainably,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday, presstv.com reported.
North Korea fired two missiles over Japan this year, which Tokyo could not shoot down because of constitutional restraints. Pyongyang has also formerly threatened to ‘sink’ Japan in the event of war.
Japan, along with its main ally, the United States, has been opposed to North Korea over its weapons programs. It has been dependent on the US for protection. The new missile system would be added to Japan’s current missile systems consisting of US land-based Patriot missiles and Aegis-equipped destroyers.
PAC-3 surface-to-air missile interceptors are deployed at the grounds of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces Kaita base, in the town of Kaita, Hiroshima Prefecture, on August 12, 2017. (AFP)
The deployment of the new Aegis missile, which is planned for 2023, will reportedly cost about 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion).
“Naval vessels need to return to their ports regularly for rest and refueling, but if its ground deployment, we will be able to operate almost 24-7,” a Japanese military official said. “We can be on permanent vigilance even when signs (of missile firing) are hard to detect.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to bolster his country’s military capabilities and amend the country’s pacifist constitution.
Japan’s military spending has increased steadily since Abe took office in 2012, with the government saying it plans to buy more American weapons.
The North Korean missile program, along with its nuclear activities, has alarmed regional and other countries. Pyongyang says the programs are needed to counter potential hostility by its adversaries.