Japan has reportedly requested a new, advanced missile system from the United States to counter what Tokyo perceive to be a growing North Korean threat.
Reuters cited three unnamed sources on Wednesday as acknowledging that Tokyo had requested a land-based version of the Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) system from the US.
According to the news agency, US officials have not met the demand so far due to objections raised by the US Missile Defense Agency.
The new powerful missile system requested by Japan, known as Spy-6, is a new generation of BMD interceptor missiles that would empower Japan to cover a greater range.
Japanese officials have previously witnessed a demonstration of the Spy-6 technology, which boosts the range of BMD radars dozens of times, but efforts to secure the equipment from their ally have come to naught.
On Tuesday, North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slammed the action as “reckless” and “unprecedented.”
In his first meeting with Prime Minsiter Shinzo Abe on August 18, the new US Ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty, described the US-Japan security partnership as the “greatest on earth.”
Also, the US’s top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford described that alliance as “ironclad” in talks with the chief of staff of Japan’s Self Defense Forces, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, that same day.
The US Navy supports giving Japan the new radar, one Reuters source said, but there has been reluctance on the part of the Missile Defense Agency, which is responsible for developing BMD technology.
The United States’ first Spy-6 equipped Aegis warship is not slated to begin operations before 2022, one of the sources said.
The Aegis system’s new SM-3 Block IIA defensive missiles, designed to hit warheads potentially fired over its missile shield, can fly more than 2,000 kilometers — about twice the distance of current SM-3 missiles at Japan’s disposal.
The interceptor missiles would cost around $30 million each, the sources said.
The North Korean missile program, along with its nuclear activities, has alarmed regional and other countries. Pyongyang says the programs are needed to counter hostilities by its adversaries.