The Missile Defense Agency conducts the first intercept flight test of a land-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense weapon system from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex in Kauai, Hawaii. Photo: US Missile Defense Agency handout via Reuters/Leah Garton

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera clearly had China on his mind when he hinted during a visit to a US missile test site in Hawaii that his country needs to build a comprehensive system capable of intercepting cruise missiles.

“We would like to develop (the system) into a basic infrastructure that will be helpful in comprehensive missile defense and can (intercept) cruise and other kinds of missiles,” he told reporters after visiting the facility on the island of Kauai,” the Japan Times quoted Onodera as saying on January 10.

Japan is planning to introduce the Aegis Ashore, the land-based version of the missile defense system, to deal with the increasing threat from North Korean ballistic missiles. But Asahi Shimbun and others noted that the minister’s remarks suggest that Japan should expand Aegis Ashore to deal with possible cruise missile attacks.

Outside Russia, the one country near Japan capable of launching such cruise missiles is China. The Chinese military is actively developing anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles with faster speeds and longer ranges.

The defense minister’s remarks on boosting Japan’s missile defense capabilities came after his first visit to the US military’s Aegis Ashore test site on Kauai Island in Hawaii.

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