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MSDF Aegis ship appearance canceled amid Akita missile defense anger

In this image taken from the Self-Defence Forces (SDF)'s Akita Provincial Cooperation Office website, a poster for the July 27-28, 2019 Maritime Self-Defense Force public relations event in Akita is seen. The "Chokai" Aegis vessel is the second ship from the top.

AKITA -- A port call here by a Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) Aegis vessel has been canceled, apparently to avoid angering locals already upset over glaring errors in a Defense Ministry report concluding the Akita prefectural capital was the best place for a planned Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system.

The Aegis ship "Chokai" was scheduled to appear alongside the destroyer "Suzutsuki" at an MSDF public relations event at the Port of Akita on July 27-28, according to the Self-Defence Forces (SDF)'s Akita Provincial Cooperation Office, but the Aegis vessel was dropped from the plan at the end of June.

When asked for comment, the Defense Ministry's Maritime Staff Office said only that "the issue relates to unit operation information," and that revealing the background for the change "would pose a security problem."

The event in Akita is held annually, and gives regular residents the chance to tour the interior of MSDF vessels. The Chokai, whose name is derived from Mount Chokai straddling the border between Akita and Yamagata prefectures in northern Japan, was set to be the highlight of this year's edition.

Many data errors in the Defense Ministry report recommending the city of Akita to host the Aegis Ashore system were discovered following its release at the end of May. The problem was exacerbated by multiple missteps by ministry personnel, including one individual who dozed off in the middle of an information session for local residents. Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya has apologized to the governor of Akita Prefecture and the mayor of the capital city.

It appears likely the Aegis vessel's visit was also canceled to avoid agitating citizens already distrustful of the ministry and the SDF, and who may associate the Aegis ship with the Aegis Ashore land-based system.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Takano, Akita Bureau)

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