The move represents the most significant upgrade to Japan’s missile defense system in a decade and is part of an increase in military spending in the region, where geopolitical tensions are rising.
The rollout of the new advanced Missile Segment Enhancement, which could double the range of the current PAC-3 missiles to around 30 km (19 miles), will likely start next year, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the project.
“The upgraded PAC-3 is necessary to counter the Musudan,” said one source, referring to Pyongyang’s intermediate-range ballistic missile.
North Korea’s recent belligerence has been driving an arms race in East Asia: The Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong-un has “squandered” roughly $100 million on missile launches in the last five years. Seoul and Washington are planning to deploy the advanced THAAD system on the peninsula, a development which was precipitated by analysis that suggested existing Patriot missile systems aren’t capable of intercepting North Korea’s most advanced projectiles. Japan appears to have come to a similar conclusion about the inadequacies of its current systems.
Make no mistake: these anti-missile upgrades ultimately represent a failure on Beijing’s part to rein in its ally. China isn’t happy that its neighbors are arming themselves to the teeth, particularly because the efforts usually involve cooperation with the United States. But Beijing has no one but itself to blame.
North Korea, for its part, doesn’t appear to be backing down, the AP reports:
North Korea’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press Thursday that Washington “crossed the red line” and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals.
Han Song Ryol, director-general of the U.S. affairs department at the North’s Foreign Ministry, said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.
The more things escalate, the more impotent Beijing looks and the more South Korea and Japan will feel compelled to strengthen their defenses.