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US approves sale of missile defense system to Japan in $133 million deal

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department notified Congress Jan. 9 that it had approved the export of Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA anti-ballistic missiles to Japan, marking the first time a Block IIA missile has been approved for export.

The U.S. and Japan had been jointly developing SM-3 Block IIA missiles since fiscal 2006. In an announcement regarding its approval to export the weapon to Japan, the State Department emphasized that the missiles would enhance the defense capabilities of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF).

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has urged Japan to buy U.S. weapons in light of the accelerated pace of North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs. The sale of the SM-3 Block IIA missiles will be the first of a series of weapons sales from the U.S. to Japan since the presidential pitch, and will include four of the missiles and four MK 29 missile canisters, among other equipment and services. The arms deal is expected to cost the Japanese government around US$133 million or about 15 billion yen in total.

SM-3 Block IIA missiles are remodeled versions of SM-3 missiles currently in use on Aegis-equipped ships of the U.S. Navy and the MSDF. Their most significant characteristic is that they travel at five times the speed of the SM-3 missiles presently being used and have greater interception range. The anti-ballistic missiles are set to be employed on Aegis-class destroyers as well as in land-based Aegis Ashore systems, which Japan is planning to deploy at approximately 100 billion yen per unit, along with F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets.

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