The State Department has approved the sale of $133 million worth of missiles to Japan in an effort to shore up its military defense as tensions with North Korea continue to escalate.
On Tuesday, the State Department notified Congress that it had approved the sale of “four missiles for the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor” and “four Mk 29 missile canisters, and other technical, engineering and logistics support services.”
The missiles, which were designed by both countries, are designed to be used at sea to neutralize any potential attack from North Korea.
“If concluded, this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” a State Department official told Fox News.
“It will bolster the security of a major treaty ally that has been, and continues to be, a force for political stability and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” they continued. “It will also improve (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s) interoperability with U.S. missile defense systems, and increase the protection for U.S. installations in the region.”
The sale forms part of the Trump administration’s wider national security strategy that specifies “[cooperation] on missile defense with Japan and South Korea to move toward an area defense capability” by overseeing the bolstering of their military capabilities.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed that Japan’s national security risk is “at its severest since World War II,” as North Korea continues to launch missile tests over Japan. He argued that the continuation of a nuclear-armed North Korea was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“It is absolutely unacceptable that North Korea is trampling the strong desire of Japan and the rest of the international community for peaceful resolutions and continuing with its provocative behavior,” Abe said. “Without giving in to any provocative action, we must change the North Korea’s policy by maximizing the pressure in complete solidarity with the international community.”
Both Japan and South Korea remain the United States’ strongest regional allies and also regularly find themselves the target of Pyongyang’s warmongering rhetoric.
Most recently, the North warned that Japan would be swiftly covered by “nuclear clouds” and “engulfed in flames” should war break out, adding that Abe had been “running around the U.N. stage like a headless chicken.”
“The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” declared the country’s state media. “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”
However, during joint talks with South Korea on Tuesday, North Korean officials said that their weapons were “only aimed at the United States.”
Japan has responded to the threats by exerting pressure on the regime through a number of economic sanctions against North Korean entities, although the move is expected to have little impact on the country’s overall nuclear strategy.