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US approves major deal on hundreds of long-range missiles for Japan

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk cruise missile from the ship's bow in March 2011. (File photo by Reuters)

The United States has approved the sale of hundreds of long-range missiles to Japan, as Tokyo strives to boost its defenses despite fresh talks on easing tensions between Japan and China.

The Pentagon said on Friday that the State Department had signed off the estimated $2.35 billion sale of advanced Tomahawk missiles to Japan, which is amid growing tensions with China and North Korea.

The sale includes 400 Tomahawk missiles, 14 Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control Systems, software, support equipment, spares and technical support. Japan will buy two types of the missiles, which have a strike range of about 1,600 kilometers and can be launched from Aegis destroyers of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department said in a statement.

It “will improve Japan’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing a long-range, conventional surface-to-surface missile with significant standoff range that can neutralize growing threats,” it added.

Japan’s budget for fiscal 2023, which was approved in December by Kishida’s administration, included ¥211.3 billion ($1.6 billion) to procure the Tomahawks.

The country is seeking to purchase all the missiles from Washington in the coming fiscal year starting in April. Tokyo was initially planning to buy the missiles over the next several years.

Japan says it has been alarmed by China’s purported growing military clout, including its exercises around Taiwan, as well as by nuclear-armed North Korea’s missile tests.

The major military purchase goes ahead despite dialog between Tokyo and Beijing aimed at easing tensions.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Thursday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in San Francisco, with Kishida telling Xi that the two Asian powers “have a responsibility to coexist and prosper together, while contributing to world peace and stability.”

Japan’s relations with China have long been plagued by conflicting claims over a group of tiny East China Sea islets. The US relies on Japan and its other main regional ally South Korea to support efforts to challenge the growing dominance of China.

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