Japan weighs THAAD missile shield as North Korean WMD threat grows

by WorldTribune Staff, November 27, 2016

Japan is considering following South Korea’s lead in deploying the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system.

The move comes amid a heightened threat from North Korea, which has conducted more than 20 ballistic missile tests this year and has made steady progress in its quest to miniaturize nuclear warheads.

THAAD interceptor
THAAD interceptor

Another security concern, rarely addressed in recent news reports, is the spread of demonstrations in South Korea calling for the resignation of President Park Geun-Hye over an influence scandal. The vacuum of power in Seoul strengthens the leverage of the communist regime in Pyongyang which enjoys China’s steadfast support.

Deputy Defense Minister Kenji Wakamiya will head up a panel looking into the deployment, sources said. The panel’s aim is to draw up specific measures by next summer to strengthen Japan’s missile defense system, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.

Japan currently uses a two-tier missile defense system which calls for first trying to shoot down a missile in space with SM-3 (Standard-Missile 3) interceptors mounted on Aegis destroyers and, in the event that fails, destroying it at an altitude of less than 20 km using the PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) surface-to-air missile system.

THAAD is able to intercept a missile re-entering the atmosphere at a higher altitude than the PAC-3.

If Japan joins South Korea in introducing the U.S. system, it would enable THAAD operations and information-sharing to be conducted among the three allies, the sources said.

The Defense Ministry also plans to introduce a ground-based missile defense system known as Aegis Ashore. Each system will cost hundreds of billions of yen and require public approval to adopt, the sources said.

“It will not be easy to secure related budgets,” a senior ministry official said.

Japan’s deployment of THAAD would also not likely sit well with China, which has denounced Washington’s plan to deploy THAAD in South Korea as a serious threat to the region’s geopolitical balance.