U.S.-Japan Missile Defense Cooperation: Increasing Security and Cutting Costs

The proliferation of increasingly longer-range ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific region poses a serious threat to both Japan and the United States. North Korea has a proven arsenal of hundreds of ballistic missiles. Many of these missiles are capable of reaching Japan and threaten American military bases there. China’s military buildup also raises serious security concerns in Japan, as the two countries have a long history of conflict. China disputes Japanese sovereignty over uninhabited but resource-rich islands in the East China Sea. Additionally, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea increases tension between the two countries and poses a risk of conflict in the region.

In response to this threat, the United States has invested heavily in ballistic missile defense (BMD) to protect U.S. forces and allies in the region. One strategy the U.S. government has used to pursue BMD programs is close defense technology cooperation with Japan. This includes joint research, co-development, and co-production of weapons systems.

BMD cooperation with Japan has increased U.S. national security by deterring missile threats in a region home to both American troops and allies. In addition to buying BMD systems from the United States, Japan has made a substantive technological and financial contributions to the development of next generation improvements to these systems that will help defeat and deter mutual threats. Joint development and co-production enhances capabilities for both nations and maximizes the defense budgets of both nations. The cost savings that come through defense technology cooperation represent greater alliance burden sharing with Japan. Defense cooperation with Japan could provide a model for greater cost sharing with other U.S. allies.

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