LDP lawmakers OK plan to build 2 new Aegis ships

NHK -- Dec 10
Lawmakers from Japan's ruling party have approved the Defense Ministry's plan to construct two new vessels equipped with the Aegis anti-ballistic missile system.

Defense Minister Kishi Nobuo explained the plan at a defense and security affairs meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday.

The ministry's plan was one of the alternatives to the land-based missile defense system, known as Aegis Ashore. The plan to deploy that system was abandoned. The ministry's decision to choose a ship-based system was based on a private sector survey.

Kishi stressed the two new ships are needed to make sure that Japan can be prepared and defend itself continuously.

He said the ministry will proceed with the plan to add the two vessels to the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis fleet.

Kishi also told the attendees about a plan to develop a "standoff missile" at the meeting. A "standoff missile" is a kind of surface-to-ship missile with a much longer firing range than the current model. Kishi received consent from the attendees to proceed with the plan.

The government intends to have the construction of the new Aegis vessels approved by the Cabinet as early as next week. It also intends to earmark the necessary funds in the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in April.

Commenting on the Defense Ministry's plan for the Aegis vessels, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told reporters that he understands it is possible to create a defense system that protects the entire nation constantly and can respond to any situation.

The new plan is likely to put a heavier burden on the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Kato said he expects the MSDF to try to reduce the burden by taking comprehensive steps to attract more personnel and retain them.