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International relations

US missile shield to cost Japan 70% more than expected

Now pegged at $1.2bn for each station, final price tag will be higher

Japan will use a state-of-the-art radar for the American-made Aegis Ashore, a decision that will raise the missile defense system's capabilities and costs. (Photo taken from U.S. Navy homepage)

TOKYO -- Japan said on Monday that the land-based missile defense system Aegis Ashore will cost about 134 billion yen ($1.2 billion) per station, nearly 70% higher than originally thought owing to the inclusion of a cutting-edge radar system.

The Ministry of Defense said it chose Lockheed Martin's advanced solid-state radar for the land-based Aegis, citing better performance and lower costs than another option under consideration. The radar's range exceeds 1,000 km -- more than double that of existing radars on Aegis-armed warships. Fujitsu semiconductor technology may also be used.

Aegis Ashore stations with long-range SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missiles will be deployed at training grounds in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. The system will be able to respond to multiple incoming missiles and those with steep trajectories.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said last year that each unit would cost about 80 billion yen, assuming it uses the same radar as naval Aegis systems. A senior ministry official then told the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that costs would come in just under 100 billion yen when including such other outlays as buildings. 

But Onodera retreated on July 24, saying the figure was only a reference. "I never gave an estimate for how expensive it would be," he said. 

Monday's figure, like the original, does not include such other costs as land-clearing, building construction and missile-launching equipment. The Defense Ministry said costs swelled on such factors as the new radar and inflation in the U.S. Including maintenance and operation costs for 30 years, the price tag for both stations will come to around 466.4 billion yen.

SM-3 Block IIA missiles also cost more than 3 billion yen each, along with additional expenses. There is concern that with Washington taking the lead on contract negotiations, outlays will rise even further.

"We cannot predict the total amount," said an official from the Defense Ministry, which plans to submit in late August a budget request for Aegis Ashore, including related expenses.

Also unclear is whether Aegis Ashore will be deployed by Tokyo's goal of fiscal 2023. Washington has told the Defense Ministry that installation will take six years. Since a contract will be signed no earlier than fiscal 2019, the system is unlikely to be ready before fiscal 2025.

"We are working with the U.S. government to study if it can be deployed more quickly," Onodera said on Monday, maintaining the original target date for now.

Local governments might not accept the missile defense system. The Defense Ministry delayed the start of bidding to perform geological and land surveys to Sept. 12 from Aug. 2 over residents' concerns about electromagnetic waves from the radar.

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