Washington (UPI) Nov 17, 2005
Following precedents and agreements that have defined democratic Japan for more than a century, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is fated to step down in a few months after completing a full five years in power.
But he is working harder than ever to shape the ballistic missile defense policy of his country in ways that may define it for decades to come.
Just this past weekend, the Kyodo news agency reported that Japan's Self Defense Agency is planning to deploy 124 Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles by 2010. And while the order will be a huge boost for Raytheon, the giant U.S. corporation that is the primary contractor for the Patriot, it will also give a high-tech boost to Japanese industry as more than 90 of the missiles will be built by Mitsubishi.
The first 32 Patriots will be manufactured in the United States but Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will build the remaining 92, Kyodo said, citing sources in the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. It said the Patriots would be deployed primarily around Tokyo and six other urban centers.
The deployment is part of Koizumi's visionary multi-billion-dollar program to provide effective ballistic missile defense protection for all Japan's densely populated home islands over the next decade.
Koizumi has been pushing hard to ensure that the first Patriots bought off the shelf from the United States are deployed as early as next year at air bases in the Saitama, Shizuoka, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures.
The joint production deal with Mitsubishi implements an agreement that was signed in March under which the Bush administration gave Japan the go-ahead to co-produce Patriots.
At one level, the move is an obvious response to the growing ballistic missile threat to densely populated Japan from North Korea's intermediate range Nodong missiles that may now have as many as eight nuclear warheads.
But it also reflects Koizumi's determination to transform Japan in defense policy as well politically and economically for at least a generation to come.
Koizumi, an intellectually formidable maverick within the usually cautious leadership of the venerable Liberal Democratic Party, has steered Japan closer than ever to the United States and repeatedly proven himself President George W. Bush's most reliable ally in Asia.
Koizumi's political hero is Winston Churchill, whose portrait hangs in his study, and he has particularly studied Churchill's role in ensuring the effective fighter defenses that saved Britain in the 1940 Battle of Britain after most experts had predicted for more than a decade there was no defense against massed bomber attacks.
Today, Koizumi believes Churchill's vision still holds true in the high-tech 21st Century world where bombers have been replaced with nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Spitfires and Hurricanes by Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile batteries.
Eleven months ago, Koizumi prepared the legal and constitutional ground for the huge Patriots purchase by having his government issue a statement placing the joint development and production of missile defense systems outside Japan's long-established ban on exporting weapons.
He also changed the command and decision-making structure of the Japanese Defense Forces to allow fast, decisive and flexible decision-making to launch anti-ballistic missile interceptors against possible attacks. By March, he had pushed through major purchases of BMD systems and co-production agreements with the United States.
Koizumi also clearly believes that the co-production deal, while netting huge financial rewards for Raytheon and its sub-contractors in the United States, may play a crucial role in what has been his most difficult domestic challenge: hauling a complacent Japanese industry into the 21st Century IT and electronic high-tech sectors as a leading global player.
Japan's space rocket, satellite and IT programs have performed very disappointingly and they have been plagued by failures, technical problems and budget-overruns for the past decade and a half. The enormous infusion of U.S. space, electronic and IT know-how required to home produce the Patriots may give those sectors the shots in the arm they so desperately need.
Had Koizumi lost his reelection bid this fall, or suffered a seriously decreased majority in parliament, his old arch enemies, the so-called "gray men" of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party Old Guard, might well have forced him out and either gone slow on or entirely repudiated his commitment to a long-term BMD partnership with America.
But that did not happen. Instead, Koizumi's sweeping election victory confounded expectations and gave him a secure year ahead in power to push through his programs and complete his mandated five-year stint.
All is not entirely sunshine and flowers in the drive to jointly develop BMD programs led by the Patriot between the United States and Japan. The Japanese government is alarmed over a U.S. announcement that the system could wind up costing three times more than originally planned. As a result, Tokyo may attempt to renegotiate its portion of the cost.
Initially the United States said it would shoulder about $545 million of the cost of the joint ballistic missile defense development program until fiscal year 2012, with work on the project beginning in 2006. However, Washington has since extended the development of the program to 2014 and revised the cost amount based on previous weapons projects.
Japan believes the current system, which will begin deployment in late fiscal 2006, will cost between $7.2 billion to $8.9 billion to maintain annually.
But the reality of the missile threat from North Korea, and even to some degree from China, looks certain to trump such considerations.
Also, Koizumi does not plan on vanishing from the political scene in Tokyo when he steps down as prime minister and modern democratic precedent is with him. Far from being a lame duck, he will have the popularity and political clout to continue dominating the LDP just as former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka did in the 1970s. That means he will be in a position to ensure the BMD partnership with America stays strong.
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Sea-Based Missile Defense Test Called A Success
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2005
An interceptor missile fired from a US Navy cruiser shot down a mock warhead over the Pacific Thursday after it had separated from a medium-range missile the US military said.
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