Japan will start purchasing US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles in fiscal year 2025, a year earlier than originally planned, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said amid Tokyo’s continuing tensions with China and North Korea. Kihara made the announcement on Wednesday, at a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington, DC.
Tokyo initially wanted to buy 400 of the latest Tomahawk Block V missiles with a range of around 1,600 kilometers. Now, it will procure a batch of up to 200 missiles of the previous model between fiscal years 2025 and 2027. The remainder of the deal consists of newer missiles, which will be delivered as originally planned.
“Attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force must not be tolerated in any region, including the Indo-Pacific, and we need to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of our allied forces,” Kihara said.
Last year, Tokyo decided to equip its army with “counterstrike” capabilities, citing tensions with China and North Korea. The Japanese government significantly increased defense spending, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has mulled the idea of amending the country’s post-war pacifist constitution in order to elevate the status of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
During the meeting with Kihara, Austin reaffirmed Washington’s “unwavering and ironclad” commitment to defend Japan and backed Tokyo’s desire to upgrade its military, according to the White House. “Our force posture is becoming more versatile, more mobile and more resilient,” he said, accusing China of “coercive behavior.”
Beijing, meanwhile, has accused the US of meddling in its domestic affairs by selling weapons to Taiwan and supporting the “separatist forces” in Taipei. Mainland China, which views the island as its own territory, firmly opposes any foreign aid or diplomatic ties with the local government.
Last month, Pyongyang enshrined nuclear weapons in its constitution, saying it will ensure its “right to existence” and deter a conflict with the US. North Korea has ramped up missile testing in recent years, citing Washington’s joint military drills with Japan and South Korea. The US, as well as Seoul and Tokyo, maintain that these tests threaten the peace in the region.