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Japan's two Aegis Ashore

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2/19/2019 7:13:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Japan's two Aegis Ashore anti-missile candidate sites run into local opposition
Located in northwestern Honshu on the Sea of Japan coast, Akita Prefecture has long been thought of in Tokyo and especially western Japan as remote " part of poet Matsuo Basho"s famed "The Narrow Road to the Deep North. "
The prefecture is well-known for the Akita Kanto Festival " one of three great summer festivals in the Tohoku region " and kiritampo nabe, A hot pot dish. It"s also famous for its so-called Akita bijin (beautiful local women).
If the central government gets its way, The city of Akita will also become known as the home for one of two Aegis Ashore systems Japan plans to build in an effort to improve its ability to detect and shoot down missiles launched from North Korea or elsewhere.
But the designated site in the city of Akita is only hundreds of meters from schools and homes, And close to downtown. The choice of location has sparked local anger and opposition, Even among those who say they aren"t automatically opposed in principle " just not in their backyard, Please.
The central government is looking at the Ground Self-Defense Force"s Araya training area, About 3 km from the Akita Prefectural Government offices and 5 km from Akita Station.
The potential site for the other Aegis Ashore unit is the GSDF Mutsumi training area in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
In its 2018 white paper, The Defense Ministry explained the need for Aegis Ashore by saying it will fundamentally boost Japan"s ability to protect itself "seamlessly" at all times, Something more difficult with ship-based Aegis systems.
"The working environment for the crew onboard an Aegis-equipped destroyer is extremely severe. These ships must make port calls for maintenance and replenishment, Creating gaps in defense posture. This means frequent long-term deployments for the crew to eliminate these undesired intervals. This burden on personnel is anticipated to be lifted significantly once Aegis Ashore is deployed, " the white paper states.
"The upcoming introduction of the land-based Aegis system, Aegis Ashore, Will enable our forces to intercept missiles in the upper tier not just from Aegis destroyers but also from land, " it adds.
The United States and Japan are also jointly developing advanced interceptor missiles called the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, Which will have a better ability to take out launched missiles earlier than the ones currently in use.
Plans call for eight Japanese Aegis-equipped destroyers with ballistic missile defense capabilities, Including the SM-3 Block IIA type. The systems are scheduled for deployment in fiscal 2021 and the aim is to also deploy them at Aegis Ashore sites.
In September, The Defense Ministry released its fiscal 2019 budget request, Which included procurement of two Aegis Ashore units at a cost of "123. 7 billion each. In October, Site surveys in Yamaguchi and Akita began, Even as local opposition toughened.
In Akita, Concerns about Aegis Ashore start with the question of why the central government is looking at a site lying within a city of about 308, 000 people. Sixteen resident associations from the neighborhoods right beside the Araya area, Representing about 13, 000 people, Have all voiced their formal opposition.
One resident, Shoichi Kosaka, Lives just 300 meters from the Araya compound. Driving through quiet residential streets within sight of the border fence, He expressed some specific concerns.
"Medical evacuation flights are very important to Akita, Given its elderly population. But if the Aegis Ashore system is built here, There will be limits on flights around the area. Of course, People may move away as well, Because who wants to live beside an Aegis Ashore installation? " he said.
Kozo Kazama, Who leads a local group opposed to the Aegis plan, Also questioned the candidate site.
"Why the Defense Ministry chose Araya as a site for Aegis Ashore is a mystery. Unlike the other candidate site in Yamaguchi, Which is located away from a major urban center, Araya is in a major city, " Kazama said. "There are so many concerns about the effects of the radar on both electronic devices in the area and on stress levels, As well as all sorts of security concerns related to the presence of missiles so close to so many people. "
Local politicians were also apparently taken by surprise at the central government"s decision to consider an Aegis Ashore unit in their backyard.
Kenta Suzuki, A member of the Liberal Democratic Party with a seat in the Akita Prefectural Assembly and a former member of the GSDF, Said he first heard Araya was a candidate site in November 2017 " not from fellow LDP members or former Defense Ministry colleagues, But from media reports.
"My first reaction was that Araya wasn"t a good choice, With 13, 000 people in the surrounding area, " Suzuki said. "I thought it might be better to locate the site somewhere along the prefectural coast, Which is pretty much deserted. I expressed my concern to various Diet members and Defense Ministry officials.
"After multiple explanations, I was told that, Because the Japanese government cannot just use whatever land it wants, Negotiations with private landowners weren"t that simple. Only national government-owned land, Or at least prefectural-owned land, Would work, And that"s what I think led to the decision to choose Araya. "
In August, Defense Ministry officials visited Akita to explain their plans, Saying about 200 personnel would be stationed at the Aegis Ashore site, Which would include radar facilities and missile launchers.
Concerned that such a unit would be an attractive target for terrorists, Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake told them that it wasn"t enough to merely conduct a technical evaluation of the site but that a safety policy was needed.
"A buffer zone of at least 700 to 800 meters, And preferably 1 km, Is needed between the radar and missile areas and the surrounding areas. If that is not physically possible, A further survey looking at possible replacement facilities will help determine the results as to whether the site is appropriate, " Satake said.

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