Japan seeking multi-billion-yen purchase of U.S. missiles
TOKYO (AP) - Japan's Defense Agency is seeking to purchase U.S. missiles worth 2 billion yen (US$17 million) each to help defend the country against a possible attack from North Korea, a major daily reported Friday.
The Mainichi newspaper did not specify how many Standard Missile-3's Japan hopes to buy.
But it did quote unnamed agency sources as saying the agency is seeking several hundred billion yen (hundreds of millions of dollars) for the missiles as part of its overall 140 billion yen (US$1.19 billion) budget for the next fiscal year.
The most expensive missile in Japan's current arsenal costs about a quarter of the SM-3.
The agency is also planning to buy U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, the report said.
A Defence Agency spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that both the SM-3 and the PAC-3 are under review for possible inclusion in a future anti-missile system.
But he refused to confirm the Mainichi report, saying details of the spending request would be made public when it is submitted next Friday.
Japan has 27 Patriot anti-missile batteries.
But they can only shoot down missiles with a shorter range and slower speed than the ballistic missiles North Korea is believed to be developing - including the Taepodong missile test-launched over Japan's main island in 1998.
The Defence Agency has been urging accelerated research on an anti-missile system, citing North Korea's nuclear ambitions as one of Japan's biggest security concerns.
Though military buildups are strictly limited by Japan's constitution, Japan's overall defence budget remains among the world's largest.
In 2003, Japan expects to spend 4.95 trillion yen (US$42 billion) on defence, down 0.1 percent from 2002 and less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product. - AP