Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday pledged to strengthen the country’s missile-defense capabilities against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats, in a speech to the Diet.
“Today, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is the worst in the postwar era,” Abe said, in his first major policy speech since his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) achieved an overwhelming victory in a snap election last month.
Abe said his government would take concrete actions to respond to the escalating threat from North Korea.
“(I) will strengthen defense capabilities such as the missile defense system and do my best to protect people’s lives and peaceful day-to-day life,” he said.
“In order to solve the North Korean nuclear and missile problem, as well as Japanese abduction issue, [I] will put further pressure on North Korea, together with the international community.”
Japan’s government is considering introducing the Lockheed Martin Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to counter North Korea’s growing missile threat.
Defense minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters on Thursday that he plans to visit Hawaii to inspect the U.S. ground-based missile defense system as early as January.
In August, Japan’s defense ministry requested 65.7 billion Japanese yen (USD$583 million) to purchase Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block IIA and SM-3 Block IB ballistic missile interceptors for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)’s Aegis-equipped ships.
The SM-3 Block IIA, which is designed to intercept medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), is being developed cooperatively by the U.S. and Japan.
The system is a new, developmental interceptor designed to operate as part of the Aegis BMD system and can be launched from Aegis-equipped ships or Aegis Ashore sites.
It has not yet been fielded by either country.
The Aegis BMD system utilizes SM-3 Block 1A, SM-3 Block 1B, and SM-6 interceptors.
Japan’s defense ministry has also requested 20.5 billion yen (USD$182 million) to acquire the latest PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor for use in the Patriot air defense systems used by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).
In addition to the buildup of the country’s defense capability, Japan last week approved new unilateral sanctions on nine North Korean entities and 26 individuals based in the DPRK, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Libya.
The sanctions conform with designations made by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in September.
Amid an ongoing campaign of international pressure against North Korea, President Donald Trump is expected to shortly decide whether to relist the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism.
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders on Thursday said that the President will announce his decision early next week.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Kremlin.ru