TOKYO May 13 Japan is leaning towards choosing
the Aegis Ashore missile-defence system over another advanced
system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD),
government and ruling party sources said.
Faced with North Korea's rapid missile and nuclear
development, and its threats, Japan has been looking into
introducing a new missile-defence layer - either the THAAD or
the Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the Aegis system
developed for war ships.
Lockheed Martin Corp makes both systems.
The government now favours the Aegis Ashore system as it
comes with a wider coverage area, which would mean fewer units
needed to protect Japan, and it is also cheaper, three
government and two ruling party sources said.
The sources, who spoke this week, declined to be identified
because they are not authorized to speak to media on the topic.
An Aegis Ashore unit costs about 70 billion-80 billion yen
($618 million-$706 million), while a THAAD unit costs more than
100 billion yen, the sources said.
Also, the introduction of Aegis Ashore would help reduce the
burden of round-the-clock vigilance shouldered by Japanese
warships equipped with the Aegis system, they said.
The government will make a final decision on the new system
in coming months, after sending, possibly this month, an
inspection team to Hawaii, where U.S. forces operate Aegis
Ashore test facilities, they said.
Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party in March urged Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe's government to consider acquiring the
capability to hit enemy bases and to beef up missile defence.
($1 = 113.3300 yen)
(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Kiyoshi Takenaka;
Editing by Robert Birsel)