June 6, 2006

Pentagon approves $458 mln missile sale to Japan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday said it
approved a $458 million sale to Japan of nine sea-based
missiles designed to shoot down ballistic missiles, a deal that
would provide an initial ballistic missile defense capability
for Japan.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the
government of Japan wants to buy nine Standard Missile-3
interceptors and make ballistic missile upgrades to one of its
Aegis missile systems.

Congress has 30 days to block the deal, but such action is

The DSCA said the sale would help Japan's defensive
capabilities, contributing to what it called "an acceptable
military balance in the area."

Raytheon Co. builds the SM-3 missile. It is integrated with
Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Aegis ballistic missile defense system.
The DSCA said United Defense, a unit of Britain's BAE Systems
Plc, would also be a contractor once the deal is signed.

"The Aegis weapon system and Standard missiles will be used
on (Japanese) ships and will provide, in concert with Japan
Self Defense Forces PAC-3 Patriot missiles, the initial
ballistic missile defense for mainland Japan," the DSCA said in
announcing the deal.

John Pike, a defense analyst for globalsecurity.org, said
the sale marked a "significant step" for Japan, which was
growing increasingly concerned about North Korea's stockpile of
missiles capable of reaching Japanese cities, possibly tipped
with nuclear weapons.

The sale would also help the United States by protecting
U.S. bases in Japan that could also be targeted by North Korea,
he said.

David Altwegg, operations director of the Pentagon's
Missile Defense Agency, in April told Reuters Japan and the
United States were also close to signing an agreement to
develop jointly an advanced version of the SM-3 missile.

On Monday, the Pentagon said it had also agreed to sell
Japan up to 44 SM-2 Block IIIB missiles built by Raytheon and
related equipment, in a deal valued at up to $70 million.

Japan has outstripped all other nations in joining the
multibillion-dollar U.S. drive for a layered shield against
ballistic missiles that could carry warheads tipped with
chemical, nuclear or germ weapons. Tokyo's interest soared
after North Korea fired a multistage Taepo Dong 1 missile
across the Japanese mainland on August 31, 1998.