Japan's existing system of missile defense, which includes PAC-3 missile interceptors, could be complemented with a network of small satellites, according to a Japanese press report Wednesday. File Photo by D. Myles Cullen/White House | License Photo
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The United States and Japan are to jointly build a network of small satellites capable of detecting new missiles, as Tokyo warns of increasing threats from North Korea.
The purpose of the satellites would be to complement the currently existing system of missile defense, which includes Japan's PAC-3 missile interceptors, the Nikkei reported Wednesday.
Tokyo is growing increasingly wary of North Korean weapons development. In July Japan's defense ministry said North Korea could have perfected the capability to miniaturize nuclear warheads.
China's rising military expenditure and weapons development could be posing new threats. For 2020, China's defense expenditures were up 6.6% from 2019. A total of 2,000 Chinese intermediate-range missiles, capable of reaching Japanese territory, are expected to be in deployment. China could also double the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal within a decade, the report says.
North Korea is also estimated to have hundreds of medium-range missiles. North Korea, China and Russia are believed to be developing missiles that can break through the current U.S.-Japan system of missile defense, according to the Nikkei.
The U.S. and Japanese militaries are keeping a close watch on the development of hypersonic weapons under way in China and Russia. These missiles are difficult to intercept with conventional satellites and can change course unpredictably and quickly.
The Japanese report on satellite networks comes after the U.S. Space Development Agency released a draft request for proposals, seeking a contractor to build eight satellites with infrared sensors to track hypersonic weapons, according to C4ISRNET, a U.S. online military tech publication in May.
Tensions between Japan and China have been building over Chinese boats in the East China Sea.
The civilian boats have been seen near the Japan-claimed Senkaku Islands for 111 consecutive days in 2020, according to Kyodo News on Saturday.
In 2019, Japan disclosed plans to build an electronic warfare unit as a check against Chinese maneuvers in disputed areas of the East China Sea.