Japan's Cabinet approves joint missile project with US

The cabinet and the Security Council of Japan approved Saturday a budget in fiscal 2006 to proceed with joint development of a next-generation missile interceptor with the United States.

"With the results of Japan-U.S. research so far and given the current international circumstances, it is appropriate to efficiently push forward to joint development in order to secure the capability to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said in a statement.

For the joint development of the upgraded version of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) with the United States, the cabinet approved Saturday 3 billion yen (about 25.54 million U.S. dollars) as development costs in fiscal 2006 and 700 million yen (about 5. 96 million dollars) for remaining work of joint research.

The move to develop the advanced SM-3 missile interceptor is politically sensitive , considering Japan's pacifist constitution and strict arms exports controls.

Abe stressed that Japan needs to be able to defend itself against ballistic missiles and that arms exports to the United States related to the joint missile defense project are exempt from Japan's weapons export ban, under the condition that they are strictly managed.

"Regarding arms that need to be provided to the United States under the joint development, Japan will discuss with the United States from now on about a framework for such weapons provision and provide them under strict controls," Abe said in the statement.

Tokyo and Washington launched the joint missile defense research in 1999.

The project is expected to cost a total of about 2.1 billion to 2.7 billion dollars over nine years, of which 1 billion to 1.2 billion dollars will likely be paid for by Japan.

Japan plans to begin deploying the surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability 3 component of the missile defense system by March 2007 and the SM-3 interceptors on Aegis-equipped destroyers by March 2008, Kyodo News said.

Source: Xinhua

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