The Defense Agency will put off its request for greater funding of joint research into the theater missile defense program, partially to avoid angering Beijing before the upcoming visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin, government sources said Thursday.

Jiang’s visit, from Sept. 6-11, will be the first ever to Japan by a Chinese president.

Initially, the agency planned to seek between 500 million yen and 1 billion yen for stepped-up Japan-U.S. research in budgetary requests for fiscal 1999, which will be made to the Finance Ministry at the end of this month, the sources said.

But it now plans to seek 100 million yen — the same amount allocated for the current fiscal year — for preliminary study of the TMD program, the sources said. The agency hopes to negotiate more funding for the program in December, however, when the government starts compiling the annual budget for fiscal 1999, which starts next April, according to the sources.

TMD is envisioned as a system to destroy incoming missiles before they reach their targets. The Japanese government views the program as crucial for regional defense, but Beijing has criticized the joint Japan-U.S. project, saying it could disrupt the military balance in Asia and lead to stronger Japan-U.S. defense alliance.

Besides officials at the Defense Agency and the Foreign Ministry who want to avoid angering Jiang before his visit, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s weak position in the Diet is making politicians nervous.

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