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Japan eyes 2 Aegis ships after land-based defense plan scrapped

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan is considering building two Aegis ships after abandoning earlier this year its plan to deploy a land-based defense system designed to counter the North Korean missile threat, government sources said Wednesday.

    The final decision will be made after the government receives an interim report in mid-November from two private companies entrusted with assessing technical issues related to the plan, the sources said, adding the Defense Ministry is expected to earmark necessary spending in the fiscal 2021 budget to be drafted by the end of this year.

    If the plan is given the go-ahead, the new ships would have the functions of a so-called Integrated Air and Missile Defense architecture, not only responding to ballistic missiles, the main purpose of the scrapped land-based system, but also countering cruise missiles and fighter jets, according to the sources.

    Due to safety and technical reasons, Japan decided in June to give up on deploying the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore land-based defense system.

    After examining three sea-based options in place of the land-based system, the ministry last month decided to go ahead with the introduction of destroyers equipped with an interception system.

    The ships are expected to have displacements of around 9,000 tons, exceeding the 8,200 tons of the destroyer Maya, the largest Aegis-equipped vessel to date in the Maritime Self-Defense Force commissioned in March, according to the sources.

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