Japan Mulls Thaad Missile Defense System Amid North Korea Threat

  • Defense Minister Nakatani makes comments in Hawaii, Kyodo says
  • U.S., China squaring off over Thaad deployment in South Korea

Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

Photographer: Peter Parks -Pool/Getty Images

Japan is considering deployment of the U.S.’s Thaad ballistic missile defense system to counter any potential strike from North Korea, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters in Hawaii, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

Nakatani’s comments come as the U.S. and China square off over the possible deployment of the anti-missile system in South Korea -- a source of tension between the world’s two biggest economies as they vie for influence in Asia.

Adoption of the technology by Japan could also agitate China, which has criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to strengthen the role of Japan’s military, and chill a nascent recovery in ties between Asia’s two biggest economies. Abe told President Barack Obama last week that he supported U.S. naval patrols to assert free navigation in the South China Sea, where China has built artificial islands as a platform to assert its claims to more than 80 percent of the waters.

The Thaad issue has left South Korean President Park Geun Hye caught between the U.S, which maintains more than 28,000 troops in the country to defend against North Korea, and China, its biggest trading partner and ally in efforts to resolve historical and territorial disputes with Japan.

North Korea on Nov. 15 declared a no-sail zone off its eastern coast, suggesting the country may be preparing to test-launch a missile in the sea that lies between the Korean peninsula and Japan, according to Yonhap News. The test could involve a new type of proprietary ballistic missile that separates into several “sub-missiles” at high altitude, the South Korean news agency reported.

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