Japan and the U.S. failed to shoot down a dummy ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii, just as Japan’s Defense Ministry is reportedly moving toward investing in a land-based version of the same missile defense system. “A planned intercept was not achieved” in a test using the ship-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system and a jointly developed next-generation interceptor, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said in a statement on its website. Officials will analyze data from the test, which followed a successful interception in the only previous test in February.
Amid growing anxiety about the threat from neighboring North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, Japan is planning to build up its existing two-stage defense system in cooperation with the U.S. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has also urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider building missile shelters and obtaining the capability to strike back at an enemy base — something that has been taboo because of the country’s pacifist constitution.
The Defense Ministry will seek funds for further research on a land-based version of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Aegis system, the Asahi newspaper said Friday, citing government sources. The newspaper didn’t say how much would be budgeted for the research, though Aegis Ashore is seen by officials to be cheaper than the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield being deployed by the U.S. in South Korea.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is set to travel to Hawaii next month to inspect a facility where the Aegis system is being tested, the Asahi said. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech Thursday that the missile defense system must be enhanced because of the threat from North Korea. Abe has been increasing defense spending gradually since he took office in 2012, with the total reaching more than 5 trillion yen ($45 billion) for the current year.