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Japan to seek funding for long-range missiles amid North Korean threat

By Sara Shayanian
Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, pictured in 2014, announced that new missile purchases wouldn't change Japan's self-defense policies. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/edd1097feef5f75e3dbfec1545e937e5/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, pictured in 2014, announced that new missile purchases wouldn't change Japan's self-defense policies. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Japan will fast-track spending to buy long-range missiles for the first time amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said purchasing the missiles would help counter the country's "increasingly severe" national security situation.

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"We will implement stand-off missiles capable of defending ourselves adequately, when we are outside the range of the opponent, in order to ensure the safety of the Self Defense Force and to defend our nation effectively," Onodera said.

Onodera denied the missiles indicate a change in Japan's defense-oriented policy in which forces do not have the capability to strike other countries' territories.

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"Our way of thinking has not changed at all," Onodera said.

Japan will be buying two types of missiles -- Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles -- from Lockheed Martin to put on its F-15 fighter jets.

The Japanese military will also purchase Joint Strike Missiles from the Norwegian company Kongsberg to be put on new F-35 stealth fighter jets.

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The missile purchases come as tensions with North Korea continue to rise in the region -- with North Korea successfully launching four missiles simultaneously earlier this year.

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"North Korea's advancements made it inevitable that Tokyo and Seoul would purchase standoff strike capabilities," Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN.

"Standoff missiles will ensure that Japan has a credible response to attacks against its territory, which will help them deter these strikes in the first place."

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Japan fast-tracked the missile defense budget originally intended for fiscal 2018 in a supplementary budget for the current year hoping to counter the North Korean threat.

"I want to proceed immediately with discussions to determine the fastest schedule for improving missile defense capability," Onodera said.

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