(Bloomberg) -- Japan will start acquiring Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US beginning in 2025, moving up its planned purchase by a year due to increased security threats from neighbors such as North Korea and China, Kyodo News reported.
Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters Wednesday during a visit to the US to meet counterpart Lloyd Austin that the two “shared the recognition” to buy Tomahawk missiles in the fiscal year starting in April 2025. The transaction needs to be approved by the US Congress.
Japan had planned to buy about 400 of Raytheon Technologies Corp.’s Tomahawk Block-5 cruise missiles from 2026 and 2027 and install them on its destroyers. It has earmarked spending of more than ¥200 billion ($1.3 billion) for the missiles and moving up the start with the purchase of 200 of the Block-4 version could help reduce costs, Kyodo cited an official it did not name as saying.
In their meeting, Kihara and Austin agreed on strengthening the capabilities of the alliance “including effective operation of counterstrike capabilities under Japan-U.S. cooperation,” the two sides said in a joint statement.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s new array of missiles designed to strike Japan, and China’s assertiveness in the region have prompted Tokyo to ratchet up spending.
Japan’s Defense Ministry is seeking a record budget for the next fiscal year as the pacifist country is set to have some of the highest military spending in the world, with questions remaining as to how the government will finance the surge.
The ministry said in August it’s seeking ¥7.7 trillion for the fiscal year beginning in April 2024, up 13% from the previous year. The amount would be nearly on par with military spending in France and Germany, based on 2022 figures provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the past few years has tested new solid-fuel, nuclear-capable missiles that can be set-up and launched in 10-15 minutes and travel in excess of five times the speed of sound. Once fired, they would only need about another five to 15 minutes to reach any US base in South Korea and Japan, where almost 80,000 American military personnel and their families live and work.
Still, the Tomahawks are subsonic and would likely need an hour or more to make the trip to North Korea depending on where they might be launched from Japanese territory. This would give Pyongyang enough time to fire off a volley or two from mobile launching platforms and move them to safety before impact.
The Tomahawk cruise missiles have a range of about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) and can be fired from ships and submarines, according to Raytheon. Starting in 2020, the US Navy has worked to modernize the missile for a new Block-5 series that has upgraded navigation, with some variations being able to strike moving targets at sea, it said.
This means Japan could use them to hit all of North Korea as well as naval bases on the east coasts of China and Russia.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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