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Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Volume 2, Number 4, June 2003. Japan Gets Serious about Missile Defense: North Korean Crisis Pushes Debate

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This study was written by Dr. David Fouse, Assistant Research Professor in the APCSS Research Division. The study incorporates findings of a research trip to Tokyo in March 2003. Prime Minister Koizumis recent decision to accelerate consideration of Japans participation in the United States ballistic missile defense BMD program signaled that while obstacles remain, a consensus on moving toward deployment of a missile defense system is not far off. The North Korean nuclear crisis has created a sense of vulnerability among the Japanese public that has for the most part silenced criticism of BMD on pacifist grounds, opening the debate to more practical issues such as cost, feasibility and strategic considerations. The North Korean crisis also has magnified the importance of the U.S.- Japan alliance, raising the stakes for Japanese cooperation on issues such as BMD. Most analysts inside Japan believe alliance maintenance will be a key factor in deciding the BMD issue. Improvements in the performance of the United States Patriot 3 interceptor systems during Operation Iraqi Freedom increased the technical credibility of BMD inside Japan, helping to win over domestic opposition. The influence of Chinese objections in shaping Japanese approaches to a BMD system has decreased due to Chinas success in modernizing its own ballistic missile capabilities and its misuse of the history card. Although Japan appears to be ready to move forward with the deployment of a layered missile defense system, the United States faces the possibility of alienating key support groups inside Japan if it does not tactfully handle the issue of the future of the joint research and development project.

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  • Antimissile Defense Systems

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