Dec. 9 (UPI) — Japan is pushing ahead with plans to build two new Aegis ships, after canceling the deployment of a land-based U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense system.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Wednesday that Tokyo plans to build two ships that can be equipped with Aegis missile interceptors, NHK and the Nikkei reported.
The statement came after the defense ministry proposed the plan before the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, according to reports.
Taku Otsuka, the leader of a team of LDP lawmakers, said there are “no other options than building Aegis ships” after a closed-door discussion Wednesday, according to Kyodo News.
The ships would be Japan’s biggest Aegis-equipped vessels and would surpass the 8,200-ton Maya, which was commissioned in March. Lawmakers agreed to the ships after ruling out an “oil rig plan” or placing the interceptor systems on offshore platforms.
Japan is increasing its defense expenditures because of threats from China and North Korea. In a defense white paper published in July, Tokyo said North Korea has perfected the capability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them on ballistic missiles capable of reaching their targets.
Japan has also launched an advanced relay satellite with laser communication orbit to communicate with military and civilian networks. The country is planning to deploy a new class of multi-mission frigates by 2022.
The political opposition criticized the decision Wednesday.
Jun Azumi of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said the ships could “deviate from the country’s postwar defense policy” and Japan’s pacifist Constitution.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the new weapons are for defense capabilities and “not aimed at striking foreign bases.”
Tokyo suspended plans to deploy U.S. Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense in June largely due to public opposition.
The cost of the two Aegis ships is estimated to be $4.8 billion, according to Kyodo.