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UPDATED: 10:38, December 16, 2005
Japan to pay up to US$1.2b for missile project
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Japan plans to spend up to US$1.2 billion for an ambitious project to develop a next-generation interceptor missile with the United States, Japanese defence ministry officials said yesterday.

Development of the upgraded version of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) will cost about US$2.1 billion to US$2.7 billion over nine years, of which US$1 billion to US$1.2 billion will likely be paid by Japan, the Japanese defence ministry officials said.

The jointly developed missile, which the officials said would likely go into production around 2016, will be installed on US and Japanese destroyers equipped with Aegis combat systems.

The officials said the United States was expected to spend about US$1.1 billion to US$1.5 billion for the project. But they said Japan and the United States had yet to reach an agreement on details of the project including funding. Details of the joint development programme were expected to be decided within several days, the officials said.

Japan and the United States began joint research on the next-generation missile defence system in 1998. Tokyo has spent about 26 billion yen (US$221.2 million) for joint research on the system, and the defence ministry planned to set aside about 3 billion yen (US$25.3 million) next year for the project to develop the advanced interceptor missile.

Tokyo eased a blanket ban on arms exports last year to open the way for joint development of a missile shield.

Neighbouring countries in the region including have expressed concern that the missile shield will be used to keep their military capabilities in check.

Japanese officials have cited the missiles of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as a threat and said establishment of a missile defence system is in line with Japan's policy of keeping its military activities and capabilities purely defensive.

Japan decided in 2003 to buy a missile defence system from the United States based on the Patriot 3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile.

This system will be deployed from around 2010.

Defence experts say such joint arms projects are vital to keeping Japan's defence capabilities up to date at an affordable cost, while critics worry that such moves could tarnish Japan's post-war pacifist image and unsettle its Asian neighbours. Japan's 1947 pacifist constitution has been interpreted as allowing a military, but strictly for self-defence. The government has been stretching that restriction, most recently with a decision to send about 550 soldiers to help rebuild Iraq.

Source: China Daily

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