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S.D. Defense Contractor Says It Could ‘Protect and Defend’ U.S., Japan and South Korea

Amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, a San Diego defense contractor is asserting that remotely piloted aircraft such as the ones it manufactures might have a role to play in missile defense.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. made the claim in a statement issued Aug. 9 — the same day it revealed that it hosted a conference that included Japan’s defense minister two weeks earlier.

The conference, assembled by the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, brought together Japanese and U.S. military experts July 26-27. Linden S. Blue, vice chairman of General Atomics, sits on the board of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank.

As North Korea improves its missile capabilities and as tests increase, “a near-term, affordable defensive solution is needed,” GA-ASI said in a statement, which went on to say that remotely piloted aircraft and their video sensors could enable early ballistic missile tracking in the boost and ascent phase, thereby increasing the probability of intercept.

GA-ASI builds the Predator family of unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft in Poway.

“Developing and delivering capabilities to protect and defend the U.S., Japan and South Korea is a critical part of the General Atomics’ mission,” GA-ASI chief executive Linden P. Blue said in the statement.

Hudson Institute senior fellow Arthur Herman organized the late July conference titled “The Role of Unmanned Platforms in Ballistic Missile Defense: From Persistent Surveillance to Boost-Phase Intercept.”

Keynote addresses were given by Itsunori Onodera — who was Japan’s defense minister from 2012 to 2014, and was appointed to the job again on Aug. 3 — and retired Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Hunter is the father of current Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon.)

Other speakers included retired Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, former commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet; Masao Akiyama, senior vice president of IHI Inc.; Michael Del Rosso, vice president of the American Strategy Group; Leonard Caveny, former science and technology director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization; and Hudson Institute CEO Kenneth Weinstein.

“The defense of the United States against a North Korean missile threat has to begin over the Sea of Japan,” Herman said.

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