Japan will soon begin constructing two more Aegis antimissile ships in response to North Korea's recent missile tests, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports.
Unidentified sources told the newspaper that the Japanese Defense Ministry will seek funding for the two additional Aegis destroyers in upcoming budget proposals. The plan is to begin constructing the first warship in fiscal 2015 and to start building the second one in fiscal 2016. A fleet of eight Aegis warships by fiscal 2020 is the end goal, insiders said.
Japan's plans to bolster its sea-based capability to shoot down launched ballistic missiles comes as North Korea in recent months has carried out an unusually high number of ballistic-missile tests, as well as numerous rocket and munitions trial firings.
"While the deployment of missiles in readiness for battle proceeds [in North Korea], the country is carrying out exercises to further improve the capability [of its missile system]," prompting Tokyo to decide that its fleet of Aegis warships should be expanded as soon as is feasible, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera recently said.
Meanwhile, the appointment of a new defense chief in South Korea could cause the country to become more amenable to hosting an advanced U.S. missile defense system, the JoongAng Ilbo reports.
"The U.S. [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system], if deployed on the Korean Peninsula, will be helpful in controlling North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations and strengthening the security posture on the peninsula," newly installed Defense Minister Han Min-koo said in a recent interview with KBS television.
Han's predecessor, Kim Kwan-jin, strongly favored South Korea developing its own long-range missile interceptor, rather than get more deeply involved in U.S. regional antimissile activities.
Defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok on Monday told reporters that "if there is an official request from the U.S. to the South Korean government for cooperation [on the deployment of a THAAD system], we will review it."