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Defense minister apologizes to Akita governor over Aegis Ashore survey data errors

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, left, apologizes to Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake over data errors in a Defense Ministry report regarding a plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore missile defense system, at the Akita Prefectural Government building in the city of Akita, on June 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

AKITA -- Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya apologized to Akita Gov. Norihisa Satake on June 17 over data errors found in a Defense Ministry survey report concerning a plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore missile defense system in this northwestern Japan city.

During their meeting, Iwaya told the governor that his ministry plans to reinvestigate other candidate sites for hosting the land-based missile interceptor system. The apology came after it emerged there were data errors in the survey report due to the use of Google Earth.

"I'm truly sorry. I offer my deepest apology once again," Iwaya told Satake during the meeting, which was open to members of the press.

The ministry had decided that the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)'s Araya Maneuver Area in the city of Akita was the only appropriate site in eastern Japan to deploy the Aegis Ashore system, though 19 other spots in Aomori, Akita and Yamagata prefectures in northern Japan were covered by the survey as possible candidate sites.

Iwaya said his ministry is considering re-examining other candidate sites by conducting on-site measurements, listening to experts' opinions and other methods. He went on to say that the Aegis Ashore system is vital and sought understanding toward its deployment in Akita.

In response, Satake said, "This goes beyond regrettable to sad. I want the Defense Ministry to take it as starting from below zero."

The governor said that at this point he could not engage in discussions on deployment, effectively withdrawing his earlier comment that he would decide whether to accept placement of the defense system in the prefecture next year.

It was Iwaya's first visit to Akita Prefecture since the data error issue came to light on June 5.

The error involved miscalculation of the elevation angle between the horizontal plane and the line of sight of mountains that could block radar waves for each of the nine sites in Aomori, Akita and Yamagata prefectures. The ministry had concluded that all those nine sites were "inappropriate" to host the Aegis Ashore system, after calculating figures that were far larger than the actual numbers.

(Japanese original by Saori Moriguchi, Akita Bureau)

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