The government of Japan is moving closer to a high-profile purchase of 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the U.S. as a means of enhancing its military’s ability to deter threats from China and North Korea.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told lawmakers from the country’s House of Representatives on Monday that his government intends to finalize the purchase agreement in fiscal year 2023, which begins in April. The lower chamber approved a record $50 billion (6.8 trillion yen) in defense spending, which will include $1.55 billion (211.3 billion yen) for deploying Tomahawks.
The purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles is intended to bolster the “counterstrike” capabilities of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the event the country is attacked by China, North Korea, or Russia.
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Tensions with China have increased in recent years, particularly with regard to a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and the Chinese Communist Party’s threats against Taiwan.
North Korea has also regularly conducted missile tests by launching them into the sea around Japan. There is also a long-running territorial dispute between Japan and Russia related to a chain of islands north of Japan.
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The U.S. and Japan have been close allies since the end of World War II, and the two nations are obligated to defend one another under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1960.
Japan’s SDF intends to purchase the upgraded, long-range variant of the Tomahawk and deploy them in 2026 and 2027 on its Navy’s destroyers that are equipped with advanced Aegis radar systems to be used in ship-to-surface attacks if necessary.
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During his appearance before the lower parliamentary house’s budget committee, Kishida was pressed by an opposition lawmaker on the majority Liberal Democratic Party’s prioritization of the Tomahawk purchase as opposed to other social priorities like childcare. Kishida replied, “I don’t think it’s about choosing between one or the other. Both are important for the lives and livelihood of the people.”
Japan’s Tomahawk missile acquisition will likely move ahead later this year, although it will have to move through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales process.
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Once the terms of the purchase are finalized, the Pentagon and State Dept. will have to formally approve the sale, which will give Congress an opportunity to block the sale – although that’s unlikely in this case given the deep ties between the U.S. and Japan.
It will then move into the procurement phase, in which Japan’s government will work with Raytheon Corporation to purchase and deploy the Tomahawk missiles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.