|Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009
DPJ takes aim at budget for missile shield
Targeting 'useless' defense policy
The incoming government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will likely cut missile defense spending because it isn't effective in thwarting attacks from North Korea, a senior party official said.
"Missile defense is almost totally useless," said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, a Lower House lawmaker who served as the party's deputy defense spokesman prior to its Aug. 30 election victory. "Only one or two out of 100 are ever effective. Even in shooting down a normal bomber, the odds are maybe 20 percent or 30 percent," he said Thursday in an interview in Tokyo.
Reducing missile defense would come as North Korea, Japan's closest threat, boosts its nuclear arms and missile capability. Yamaguchi, the author of a book on the Japan-U.S. defense alliance, said trimming military expenditures is necessary to offset plans by Yukio Hatoyama, who will be voted in as prime minister next week, to increase social welfare spending and tuition aid.
"We'll probably cut" the defense budget, said Yamaguchi, who holds a Ph.D. in international politics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "There's so much else we have to do, such as child care allowance, education, health care and pensions."
The Defense Ministry is requesting a 58 percent increase to \176.1 billion on missile defense in next year's budget, as part of \4.85 trillion in spending, up 3 percent from this year.
The ministry is developing a missile shield using the land-based Patriot PAC-3 system and the Standard Missile-3 used on Aegis-equipped destroyers.
Any reduction in missile defense development would contrast with the departing administration of the Liberal Democratic Party.
In June, the LDP suggested Tokyo consider possessing the capability to attack enemy bases after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan in April.
The North, which in May carried out a second nuclear test, last week said it's in the final stages of weaponizing plutonium and can either engage in negotiations or accelerate its program. The hermit state has also tested several short- and medium-range missiles this year, and in April walked out of disarmament talks involving the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
"Regardless of the threat from North Korea, defense specialists must know that no number of SM3s or PAC-3s can directly protect us," Yamaguchi said.
The missile defense system is a joint effort Japan embarked on with the United States, which designed the technology.