The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee launches a Tomahawk during a three-day missile exercise somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 30, 2020.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee launches a Tomahawk during a three-day missile exercise somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 30, 2020. (Sean Ianno/U.S. Navy)

TOKYO — Japan will move forward with a plan to buy hundreds of Tomahawk missiles following approval of a $2.35 billion deal by the Pentagon.

The possible sale to Japan of 400 missiles, 14 weapon control systems, software, support equipment, spares and technical support, was approved Friday by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

“The proposed sale will improve Japan’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing a long range, conventional surface-to-surface missile with significant standoff range that can neutralize growing threats,” the agency said in its announcement.

The two governments will move forward with contract discussions if there is no objections from U.S. lawmakers, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara told reporters at a news conference Monday.

Acquisition of the missiles “will contribute to strengthening stand-off defense capabilities of our country,” he said.

A Tomahawk can strike targets up to 1,000 miles away, according to its maker, Raytheon Technologies. The missiles are used by the U.S. Navy and can be launched from Aegis destroyers in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Japan — spending $51.4 billion on defense this fiscal year, which started in April — recently brought forward a plan to begin acquiring the missiles in 2025 versus 2026.

The accelerated purchase plan comes amid what the country’s Defense Ministry described in an Oct. 5 statement as an increasingly severe security environment.

China has more than 1,900 ballistic missiles that can reach Japan, according to a 2022 Pentagon report on Beijing’s military capabilities.

North Korea has fired 21 ballistic missiles in 14 days of testing so far this year.

A North Korean defense ministry official said Monday that the Tomahawk sale would raise tensions in the region and set off a new arms race, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that day.

The official described the Tomahawks as “lethal war equipment” and said the North would build its deterrence in response, according to the report.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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