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    Japan Self-Defense Force members set up a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed ahead of North Korea's planned rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Japan Fostering Defense Ties With US and South Korea Ahead of Putin's Visit

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    Tokyo is making every effort to boost its defense cooperation with the United States and South Korea, Da Zhigang, Director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told Sputnik, adding that this move could spark an arms race in the region.

    "Japan already has the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 ship-based missile system and the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles in its arsenal," he said. In addition, the Japanese Defense Ministry is reportedly contemplating purchasing the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system. Experts from Japan are expected to visit the United States to discuss these issues next month.

    THAAD, if deployed, will allow Tokyo to create a comprehensive air defense system, but this move "will also put geopolitical stability in Northeast Asia at risk," Da Zhigang said. "These activities indicate that Tokyo is trying to speed up the process of creating a military alliance with the United States and South Korea. Tokyo and Seoul have already signed an intelligence sharing agreement. Washington has welcomed this step."

    Meanwhile, Russia has recently deployed the K-300P Bastion and the 3K60 Bal coastal defense missile systems to the Kuril Islands.

    These developments come ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan on December 15 and will most likely be on the agenda of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    "The peace treaty and the territorial dispute will be the main topics on the agenda of the talks, but the meeting will cover other areas. The Bal and Bastion coastal defense missile systems, as well as Japan's plans to station THAAD on its territory could well be discussed as part of a political and military dialogue" between the two countries, Deputy Director of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Institute Vladimir Evseev told Sputnik.

    The defense analyst added that both sides could reach a compromise and revise their defense plans when it comes to specifics, including weapons types, their amount and areas of their deployment.

    "Russia could remove the Bastion, but only if Japan takes symmetrical steps. This is why both countries are trying to boost their position ahead of the talks in Tokyo and create room for compromise," he said.

    Russian historian and an expert on Japanese affairs Professor Anatoly Koshkin did not support this view.

    "Shoigu made the announcement with regard to the Bal and Bastion's deployment to the islands of Iturup and Kunashir in March. In this context, I think that any assertions that Russian leadership is trying to gain more leverage at the upcoming talks with Abe are groundless," he said.

    Koshkin maintained that Tokyo is planning to enhance its air defenses due to the missile threat emanating from North Korea. However, he admitted that US-made THAAD could also be used against Russian missile systems.

    "Although both sides insist that the missile issue will not affect the talks between Putin and Abe, it … could further complicate agreements" with regard to the peace treaty and the territorial dispute, he added.


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    missile defense systems, state visit, talks, Shinzo Abe, Vladimir Putin, Kuril Islands, Japan, Russia
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