Japan considering buying US Tomahawk cruise missiles. Source: The Guardian / AFP

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Japan considering buying US Tomahawk cruise missiles

Purchase likely to prove controversial, as Tokyo seeks to counter growing regional threats

A Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from a US vessel in Iraq.

Japan is looking into buying US Tomahawk missiles, a mainstay of American campaigns in Syria and Iraq. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Agence France-Presse

Fri 28 Oct 2022 06.13 BST

Japan is looking into buying US-developed Tomahawk cruise missiles as it seeks to counter growing regional threats, including from North Korea, the government has said.

Any purchase would probably prove to be controversial, in a nation whose military is not officially recognised under its post-second world war constitution.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily newspaper was among those reporting on Friday that Tokyo was in the final stages of discussions with the US government over purchasing the medium-range missiles, which are launched from the sea.

The newspaper said the Korean Peninsula would be within range of the missiles, depending on the launch area, citing unidentified government sources.

North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile which flew over Japan

Asked about the reports, top government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said ministers were “studying” the possibility but nothing had been decided.

Hours after Matsuno’s comments, North Korea fired another “unspecified ballistic missile” off its east coast, Seoul’s military said.

The launch, at a time of growing fears that North Korea is readying for its first nuclear test since 2017, was the latest in a record year of missile tests.

The vice foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and the United States warned earlier this week that a North Korean nuclear test would meet an “unprecedentedly strong response”.

  • Japan is undergoing a dramatic shift in its postwar attitude to defence. Article nine of the country’s constitution, written by US occupation forces after the second world war, renounces war and forbids the country from using force to settle international disputes. Its military is limited to a strictly defensive role.

Japan’s defence spending has risen almost every year over the past decade but pressure has grown for greater funding after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing pressure on Taiwan.

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