Defense Chief To Persuade Akita To Accept Aegis

Defense chief to persuade Akita to accept Aegis

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya says he plans to visit Akita Prefecture to seek the local community's consent for the deployment of a missile defense system.

Akita Governor Norihisa Satake suggested on Monday that there are difficulties in talks with the government over the planned deployment after local opposition increased over a series of incidents.

Among them is the government's use of flawed data to show that Akita City is suitable for the placement of the US-made Aegis Ashore system.

Residents' displeasure was further fuelled when a defense official dozed off at a public meeting on Saturday that the government had convened to apologize for the misinformation.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Iwaya turned down a local proposal for another survey of Akita's suitability. He told reporters another assessment is unnecessary, as the government study has already carefully examined whether the Aegis Ashore system can be safely deployed and operated at a Self Defense Force training site.

But, the defense minister said, the parts with the flawed data will be reassessed and explained.

Iwaya said he accepts the governor's remarks, will return to basics and respond sincerely to make an all-out effort to restore trust. He pointed out his planned visit to Akita to explain.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Tuesday that the understanding of the local community is a precondition for deploying the Aegis Ashore system.

Suga said the ministry should accept what the governor said and make efforts to explain itself to the local people to restore trust.

Referring to the sleeping official, Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called it a disgusting matter and said she was stunned.

Tsujmoto said although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists that including references to the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution would raise morale, the latest case means that is out of the question. She said revising the Constitution is unthinkable when basic mistakes and such behavior are evident.

She said the use of tax-payers' money for the bulk purchase of weapons, including the Aegis Ashore system, from the United States should be an issue in the coming election.