After North Korea sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010, the outraged South Korean government demanded reparations. Later that year, then-South Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed establishing a Korean reunification fund that over the next few decades would have the $1 to $2 trillion it will take to rebuild North Korea once it collapses and the South absorbs it.
In 1988, Japan was already thinking about defensive systems designed to counter North Korean or, potentially, Chinese missiles. That year, Japan decided to build the Kongo-class destroyer and arm it with U.S. Aegis radars and Standard antiballistic missiles (ABMs). Japan began constructing an early warning radar system and later acquired land-based Patriot PAC-3 ABMs.
Today, Japan sports a sophisticated "thin shield" missile defense system capable of intercepting incoming missiles at both high (upper-tier, with the Standard-3) and low (Patriot PAC-3) altitudes.
Japan built the system without fanfare.
That has changed. Japan now publicly touts the defensive system and promises to use it. This test launch marks the third in a row where the Japanese government ordered its defense forces to use ABMs to intercept the North Korean missile or any missile debris that is heading for Japanese territory.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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