18 January 2024

Japan agrees deal with US to buy 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles

18 January 2024

Japan signed a deal with the United States on Thursday to purchase up to 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of its ongoing military build-up in response to increased regional threats.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government has pledged to double its annual defence spending to about 10 trillion yen (£53 billion) by 2027, which would make Japan the world’s third-biggest military spender after the United States and China.

Defense minister Minoru Kihara announced in December a decision to accelerate deployment of some Tomahawks and Japanese-made Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles beginning in fiscal year 2025, a year before the original plan.

The government says Japan is facing its “severest” security environment since the Second World War because of threats from China and North Korea, causing it to increase military co-operation with the US, Australia, the UK and other friendly nations.


In November, the US approved a £1.85 billion sale of two types of Tomahawks: 200 Block IV missiles and 200 upgraded Block V versions.

They can be launched from warships and hit targets 1,000 miles away, officials said.

The signing of the purchase agreement on Thursday was attended by Mr Kihara and the US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel.

Japan and the United States agreed to expedite the deployment “in response to the increasingly severe security environment,” Mr Kihara said.

Mr Emanuel said the training of Japanese crews for the Tomahawks will start in March.

Late last year, Japan’s Cabinet eased a ban on exports of lethal weapons, allowing the sale of Japanese-made weapons and components made under licence from other nations to those countries.

The government quickly approved a shipment of Japanese-made Patriot missiles to the United States to complement the US inventory.

Japan is accelerating its deployment of long-range cruise missiles capable of hitting targets in China or North Korea, while Japanese troops increasingly work side-by-side with the US and other friendly nations and take on more offensive roles.

Under a new defence strategy adopted in December 2022, Japan has joined the United States, Australia, South Korea and many other regional partners “in an aligned vision of how to promote peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and meet the challenges head on,” Mr Emanuel said.

The US approach to its partnership with Japan is “one of ensuring deterrence” and making sure there is no change in the region by military force, Mr Emanuel said.

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