Two Words: Aegis Ashore.
In late 2017 Japan’s cabinet made the critical decision to purchase two land-based missile facilities designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. The system, known as Aegis Ashore, will protect the country from North Korean ballistic missiles and augment the country’s ability to defend its airspace. But the system’s usefulness doesn’t stop there as Aegis could also protect the country—and American bases—from missiles fired from China.
Japan has been living with the North Korean missile threat for decades. Just 450 miles from North Korea, Japan has been within range of Pyongyang’s missiles since 1994 when North Korea’s Hwasong-9 (otherwise known as the Scud ER) entered service. In addition, Japan was a former colonial occupier of Korea and so holds a special place in North Korea’s revolutionary ideology and history. Added to this is Tokyo’s mutual defense pact with Washington and support for the government in Seoul, which ensure that, despite being avowedly pacifist, Japan remains high on Pyongyang’s enemies list. North Korea has also fired multiple ballistic missiles over Japanese territory, including an August 28, 2017 test of a Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile that overflew the northern island of Hokkaido.