Policymakers in Washington, D.C. were surprised to hear Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono announce on June 15 that he was halting deployment of the $4 billion Aegis Ashore missile defense system Japan is buying from the United States. This soon became a decision to cancel the use of planned Aegis Ashore sites in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures, and prompted a broader reconsideration of Japan’s missile defense approach and other aspects of its national security strategy. The remainder of 2020 is shaping up to be an unexpectedly consequential year for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation, and it comes at a time of political uncertainty in both capitals. This calls for focused high-level alliance attention now on Japan’s defense options to prevent strategy gaps from emerging.
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