Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi intends to introduce a missile defense system to protect Japan from the threat posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s ballistic missiles, a Japanese newspaper said on Thursday. Japan has conducted joint research with the United States on developing a missile defense system since DPRK fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan in 1998.
The government will hold a meeting of cabinet ministers or convene a national security meeting soon for a formal decision on introducing the system, the Mainichi Shimbun daily said.
The missile defense system is controversial in Japan due to questions it raises in connection with the country's pacifist constitution as well as the cost, and the government has so far stopped short of moving the project to the development stage.
The system could violate Japan's constitutional ban on "collective self-defense" -- the use of force to counter an attack on a foreign ally -- if it is used to shoot down a ballistic missile fired toward a third country, Mainichi said.
Under a Defense Ministry plan, Japan would spend US$4.62 billion from fiscal 2004/05 to 2007/08 to buy a two-stage system developed by the United States, Mainichi said.
The newspaper said part of the system would come into operation in 2007 and that it would be fully deployed in fiscal 2011/12 or later.
The Defense Ministry has already requested 142 billion yen in funding for fiscal 2004/05 starting next April to buy the system.
A ministry official told reporters in August that the first stage of the system consisted of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) equipment, which would be fitted to Japan's four existing high-tech Aegis destroyers starting next year.
The second line of defense would be provided by ground-to-air Patriot PAC-3 missiles, upgrading the PAC-2 system Japan's armed forces already possess.
The official declined to comment on how many PAC-3 missile systems the ministry wanted to buy, but said it planned to begin deployment in 2007.
(China Daily December 4, 2003)