The US has concluded a deal to allow Japan's licensed production of US-developed surface-to-air missiles which will constitute the core of a joint missile defense system, a report said yesterday.
The two governments sealed a memorandum of understanding in March on the licensed production of Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) interceptor missiles, the Asahi Shimbun reported in its evening edition.
US Lockheed Martin Corp is expected to sign a contract within the current fiscal year which ends in March next year to license Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd with PAC-3 production, the daily said.
Officials were not immediately available at the Defense Agency to comment on the report.
The PAC-3 is a US army surface-to-air guided missile capable of intercepting missiles, including North Korea's Rodong, which has a range of about 1,300km.
Japan plans to deploy an anti-missile shield consisting of the land-based PAC-3 as well as the seaborne Standard Missile 3 (SM-3).
SM-3s intercept ballistic missiles when they reach their highest point outside of the atmosphere and PAC-3 missiles are used to destroy missiles that evade SM-3 attacks.
Japan and the US have been engaged in joint technological research on a missile defense system since 1999, a year after North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific.
Japan plans to start deploying PAC-3 missiles in the latter half of the fiscal year to March 2007. It will buy them in the first two years from Lockheed Martin before starting deployment of Mitsubishi-produced PAC-3 missiles in the year to March 2009, the report said.
The licensed PAC-3 production will help Japan's defense industry "maintain its technological might and promptly respond to such events as malfunctions," a defense agency official was quoted as saying by the Asahi. But licensed production will be more costly than imports, the daily said.
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