Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Japan, US agree to cooperate on new missile defense

AP , TOKYO

Japan and the US yesterday agreed to boost cooperation in their missile defense programs -- an important first step in carrying out new defense guidelines that ease Tokyo's strict postwar pacifism.

Japan's Defense Chief Yoshinori Ono and US Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker penned a memorandum of understanding that allows the two nations to share information on ballistic missile defense systems and cooperate in related projects, a Defense Agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

"After joint research, we will move on to joint production," Ono said at a news conference. "This is the demand of the times."

Under the agreement, the allies will set up a high-level committee to supervise the missile defense alliance, the agency said in a statement. It didn't give further details.

Last week, Japan approved new defense guidelines which include the relaxation of an arms-export ban to facilitate a missile security program it's currently researching with Washington.

"I'm convinced that the missile defense research and development ... will result in the strengthening of peace and stability," Baker said. "This is the foundation of growth and prosperity for both of our nations."

Ono agreed and said, "I hope the ties between Japan and the United States will be further strengthened by the signing of the memorandum."

Japan has maintained the arms export ban since 1976 in deference to its pacifist constitution, unchanged since it was written by US occupation forces after World War II. The constitution renounces war and the use of force in settling international disputes.

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