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June 27, 2006
Japan To Get Missile Defenses

The US will supply Japan with anti-missile systems in response to North Korea's recent escalation in staging a Taepodong-2 missile for launch. The Post reports that both nations have expedited the process in order to have some response ready for any subsequent missile tests from Pyongyang:

The Pentagon is reportedly speeding up plans to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles on U.S. bases in Japan for the first time, a countermeasure seen as a response to the increasing threat of North Korean missiles. ...

The planned PAC-3 deployment underscores concern that Japan is emerging as the nation most threatened by North Korean missiles. Reports of a possible test-firing of a Taepodong-2 have spurred Japan and the United States to take further steps in a joint effort to construct an effective missile-defense shield.

The U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles are designed to intercept ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or aircraft. But experts said it was unclear whether the PAC-3 system would be capable of shooting down the Taepodong-2.

The Japanese have spent the post-war period trying to live down their militaristic past. That past includes some quite a history on the Korean Peninsula, where their actions still reverberate to this day. Make no mistake; Kim Jong-Il's threat against the Japanese comes not just from ideological motivations but also from a strong sense of vengeance for Japanese atrocities in the not-so-distant past. While Japan has changed tremendously since those final days of empire, they have yet to live down their actions in that region.

Now Japan may have to face the irony of re-militarization as a consequence of the atrocities of their grandfathers. It appears they have little choice, with North Korea wanting to make a habit out of launching missiles as "tests" over their territory. They agreed to send a small but significant force to Iraq, a singular event for a nation that had resolved to keep its military for strictly home defense. Now, with Pyongyang threatening their security, they may have to consider nuclearization as at least a negotiating tactic and possibly as a MAD strategy. Without doubt, they will need to make themselves part of the American umbrella against missile attacks, a defense that had been so controversial just a few years ago.

The Patriots have not yet arrived, and Tokyo still has reservations about their deployment. However, it seems clear that Japan will need to assume more of the effort in defending the Pacific Rim against the totalitarian threat posed by Kim Jung-Il.

UPDATE: CQ reader Unclsmrgl notes that this deployment is meant as a stop-gap measure. The Japanese will start manufacturing their own Patriot PAC-3 missiles, as described at Defense Industry Daily:

The United States has concluded a deal to allow Japan to license produce Lockheed Martin's Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles which will constitute the core of a joint missile defense system. The PAC-3 is the USA's most modern ground-based air defense system.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that the two governments sealed a memorandum of understanding in March 2005 on the licensed production of Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) interceptor missiles, and Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to sign a contract before March 2006 to license Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. for PAC-3 production. At the same time, Japan has also said that foreign export of such weapons may be considered under certain circumstances. ...

As noted in an earlier DID report, Japan plans to deploy an anti-missile shield consisting of the land-based PAC-3 as well as the seaborne Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) that is about to be installed on the Kirishima AEGIS destroyer. The naval SM-3s are designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside of the atmosphere, while PAC-3 missiles have a smaller engagement radius and are used more as a final defense.

That production starts in FY2008-9. Until then, the Japanese will purchase them from Lockheed.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 27, 2006 9:36 AM

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Tracked on June 27, 2006 1:21 PM


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