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An Uncertain Shield? Japan Announces Suspension of AEGIS Ashore Missile Defense Program

June 22, 2020

Episode Notes:

Japanese defense minister Taro Kono surprised many observers when he announced on June 12 that Japan would suspend its participation in the AEGIS ashore missile defense program, citing concerns about cost and technical issues related to ensuring boosters from the system’s 2-stage interceptor would not fall on populated areas.  Coming at nearly the same time as North Korea made a series of aggressive gestures, the move would limit Japan’s capacity to defend against a North Korean missile launch to the sea-based AEGIS ballistic missile defense on some Japanese destroyers. The sea-based system offers a similar capability, but requires that the ship be in position to intercept a missile before its launch.  Later in the week, a U.S. defense official clarified that the program was not cancelled, and that the two nations were in talks to find a way ahead; defense minister Kono, for his part visited one of the Japanese prefectures where the system was slated to be based and apologized to the prefectural governor for confusion caused by his announcement, and for not being aware earlier of the risk potentially posed to residents by the boosters.

 

To help us better understand this decision, we are joined by Ankit Panda, a writer, analyst, and researcher specializing in international security, defense, geopolitics, and economics. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington PostForeign AffairsForeign Policy, the Diplomat, the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, Politico Magazine, and War on the Rocks.  He is currently a senior editor at the Diplomat, where he writes daily on security, geopolitics, and economics in the Asia-Pacific region and hosts a popular podcast. He is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, where his work focuses on nuclear and conventional force developments in Asia, deterrence, and nuclear strategy.

 

 

[ 01:57 ] First, to help our listeners understand the context, what is AEGIS ashore, and what threat is it designed to protect against?

[ 03:10 ] Defense Minister Kono spoke of technical concerns. How mature is this technology?

[ 06:13 ] Where does this decision leave Japan in terms of defending against a potential North Korean attack?

[ 09:33 ] How should we understand the politics of this decision, both domestically and internationally?

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