The United States has approved the sale of 400 advanced Tomahawk missiles to Japan as Tokyo beefs up its deterrence capabilities amid what it says are growing security threats from China and North Korea.
The Pentagon said Friday that the U.S. State Department had signed off on the estimated $2.35 billion deal for 400 Tomahawk missiles, 14 Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control Systems, software, support equipment, spares and technical support.
With a range of 1,600 kilometers, the weapons will give Japan the ability to potentially hit far-away enemy bases and command-and-control nodes. The move follows Tokyo’s adoption of a so-called counterstrike capability last year.
“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 Defense Department said in a statement.
“The proposed sale 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 will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces.”
Despite the State Department approval, the notification did not indicate that a contract had been signed or that negotiations had concluded.
During Defense Minister Minoru Kihara’s visit to Washington last month, he held talks with his U.S. counterpart, with officials saying that the two had “shared the recognition” that Japan would buy the Tomahawk Block-4 missiles in the fiscal year that begins in April 2025 — a year earlier than originally planned.
Japan had initially planned to purchase 400 of the Tomahawk Block-5 missiles — the latest version of the powerful weapon — but will instead buy up to 200 of the earlier versions between fiscal 2025 and 2027, with the remainder of the missiles expected to be made up of the latest Tomahawks.
Tokyo plans to use the Tomahawks to fill immediate gaps in an initial five-year plan while the range of its homegrown Type-12 standoff missiles is extended. The Defense Ministry has also said that it is examining the possibility of acquiring its own domestically produced standoff missiles at an earlier date, but has not offered more details.
The announcement came a day after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held his first in-person talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in about a year, with Kishida telling Xi that the two Asian powers “have a responsibility to coexist and prosper together, while contributing to world peace and stability.”
It also followed a closely watched meeting between Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, where the two leaders agreed to resume high-level military-to-military talks as their countries looked to stabilize a relationship that has been in free-fall amid fears it could devolve into outright conflict.
China’s growing military assertiveness in the region and North Korea’s increasingly potent missile and nuclear forces have unnerved Japan, which last year approved a major shift in defense and security policy, signaling a readiness to shed some of the postwar constraints on its military — including by introducing the long-debated counterstrike capability.
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