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Japan halts deployment of Aegis Ashore missile defence system

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono said on Monday that he had suspended plans to deploy two Aegis Ashore air defence radar stations designed to detect and counter North Korean ballistic missiles.

Kono told reporters that Japan was halting the deployment due to technical issues as well as cost. The Lockheed Martin Co radar sites are in the northern prefecture of Akita and Yamaguchi prefecture in southern Japan.

With radars more powerful than the ship-based version of Aegis that Japan already operates, the planned sites were meant to help counter recent missile advances by North Korea and relieve pressure on Japan’s stretched navy.

“I made a decision on Friday to suspend the process…For the time being, Japan will continue to counter (the threat) with Aegis-equipped ships” said Kono.

The two planned Aegis Ashore systems cost about 439 billion yen ($4.1 billion) for operation and maintenance for the next 30 years, according to defence ministry documents.

According to plans, the sites were to be initially armed with interceptor missiles designed to shoot down warheads in space. Japan, however, will have to pay to test those interceptors before deployment, which will further add to the cost of the Aegis Ashore system.

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