Tokyo, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and United States counterpart Mark Esper, agreed Wednesday to collaborate on an alternative plan to deploy a new anti-missile system, after Tokyo discarded the original project.
Japan canceled the Aegis Ashore anti-missile land batteries’ deployment due to installation difficulties and popular opposition, but looks to design an alternative plan that would include deployment at sea, which seeks to be finalized by the end of 2020, Kishi said.
Kishi told Esper in a call that lasted about an hour in which he spoke in statements to journalists, echoed by media such as public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo news agency.
In June, when the country was still ruled by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Minister Kishi’s older brother, Japan decided to scrap its original plan to roll out the US manufacturing system in two locations in the north and west.
As Kishi said, Tokyo is now considering three alternatives for the anti-missile batteries’ maritime deployment: destroyers equipped with the system, the use of private sector vessels or an offshore structure similar to those used in oil extraction.
Japan believes the system is necessary to counter potential missile threats from North Korea and other countries.
The conversation between Kishi and Esper came a day after Japan’s, Australia’s, India’s and the US’ foreign ministers met in Tokyo and pledged to strengthen maritime safety cooperation.
Kishi told Esper during the call that he would be willing to hold a similar meeting with the defense officials of the nations, claiming “it would be very significant if the four countries could exchange their views also in the field of defense,” according to Kyodo.
Wednesday marked Kishi’s first exchange with a foreign counterpart since he took office in September, following the formation of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet.
Defense officials from Tokyo and Washington also spoke on regional issues such as the increase in China’s activities in the region or the military threat from North Korea.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to the transfer to Henoko Bay of the US Futenma Air Base in Okinawa (southwest), a controversial plan that has led to protests among the local community for years. EFE-EPA