Tokyo sends Patriot missiles to the US in another step toward full remilitarization
Japan has agreed to supply Patriot missiles to the US after ending a ban on military exports imposed under the country’s pacifist constitution in 1947. The move will help shore up Washington’s stockpiles eroded by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The arms sale to the US, confirmed on Friday in Tokyo, marks Japan’s first export of lethal weaponry since World War II. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactures Patriot missiles under license from US defense contractors Lockheed Martin and RTX. Although the Japanese-made interceptor missiles won’t go directly to Kiev, they may enable Washington to send more US-made Patriots to Ukraine.
“In taking the action, we hope to contribute to defend a free and open international order based on the rule of law, and to achieve the peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after the Japanese Cabinet agreed to overturn the export ban. The Japanese Foreign Ministry said the missile deal would further strengthen the Japan-US alliance.
Although Kishida insisted that “there is no change to our principle as a pacifist nation,” US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that “the scope, scale and speed of Japan’s security reforms have been unprecedented.” He said Tokyo is undergoing a “once-in-a-generation defense modernization.”
The export decision came on the same day that the Japanese Cabinet approved a 16% jump in defense spending, to a record high. The fiscal 2024 military budget of 7.95 trillion yen ($55.8 billion) also will require approval from Japan’s parliament.
Kishida announced a five-year military buildup in December 2022 that could make Japan the world’s third-biggest defense spender, behind only the US and China. Such outlays were once thought unthinkable under Japan’s US-authored constitution, under which Tokyo gave up not only its right to wage war, but also to possess the weapons beyond those needed for a minimal level of self-defense.
The overturning of Japan’s export ban could pave the way for F-15 fighter jets and other weaponry produced by Japanese companies under US licenses to be sold to Washington, the UK and other Western allies.
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