Japan buys US missile defence system to counter ‘serious, imminent’ North Korean threat


TOKYO: Japan is to boost its ability to counter the “serious and imminent” threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles with the deployment of ground-based interceptors bought from the US.

The defence ministry will buy two Aegis Ashore land-based systems to add to its SM-3 guided missiles launched by Aegis-equipped destroyers and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.

The cabinet said it had taken Tuesday’s decision to approve the expensive hardware in response to growing threats.

“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 defence capability to protect Japan continuously and sustainably,” a cabinet statement said.

North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles over Japanese territory this year, sparking text alerts warning millions in the north of the country to take cover.

“North Korea’s nuclear missile development poses a new level of threat to Japan and as we have done in the past we will ensure that we are able to defend ourselves with a drastic improvement in ballistic missile defence,” Itsunori Onodera, the defence minister, said.

Last month, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, it claims can strike US cities, although experts have questioned whether a missile carrying a nuclear payload, and flying on a standard trajectory, would be capable of covering that distance.