June 14 (UPI) — Japan’s plans to deploy a land-based component of a missile interceptor system, the Aegis Ashore, is being met with resistance following the easing of tensions with North Korea.
Local residents in Akita Prefecture are expressing their opposition to the deployment, following a visit from Tatsuo Fukuda, the vice minister of defense, Kyodo News reported Thursday.
The decision to deploy the Aegis Ashore was made in June 2017.
Plans were being expedited following two tests of what North Korea had claimed is its intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14.
The Aegis Ashore uses components identical to those currently found on Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers.
A few weeks earlier, Fukuda had said Akita Prefecture in northern Japan would be the ideal location for missile defense and that the ministry would install two Aegis Ashore units, according to NHK.
Opponents to the deployment include members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to Kyodo.
“Deployment near densely populated residential areas must be stopped,” LDP lawmakers said, adding North Korea has signed an agreement promising complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“Is it not necessary to arrange for Aegis Ashore, according to the results of the talks?” Japanese lawmakers said.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers are equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors that could stop incoming rockets in the outer atmosphere.
Japan’s multitier ballistic missile defense system also includes the Air Self-Defense Force’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors, which will deter missiles if SM-3 interceptors fail to stop the attack.
The cost of deploying each Aegis Ashore unit is more than $900 million.
In an unrelated move, Japan’s Hokkaido University has decided to stop receiving funds for basic research on behalf of Japan’s self-defense forces.
Japanese scientists were concerned about government intervention, according to Kyodo.