Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani on Sunday ruled out any imminent plans for Japan to join the newly proposed U.S. missile defense initiative.

“Currently, (Japan is) engaged in joint technical research on the theater missile defense system with the United States . . . but the initiative (refers to) what the U.S. is doing by itself, and at the moment, Japan will not take part in it,” Nakatani told a TV Asahi program.

In reference to his upcoming visit to the United States, he said Japan will “decide from a comprehensive standpoint” how to deal with the U.S. missile defense initiative “after thoroughly listening to the U.S. explanation” on its objective, design and cost, among other things.

As its official position, Japan has repeatedly expressed “understanding” toward the initiative, but remains vague about whether it will support it or not.

The U.S. missile defense initiative, under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, is said to contain details that are contrary to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

Nakatani is set to meet U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his four-day U.S. visit beginning Thursday.

He also stressed that the joint TMD research with the U.S. is within the scope of the individual right of defense, but indicated there will “definitely be a problem” if Japan participates in the U.S. missile defense initiative.

The Japanese government has said it has the right to self-defense under international law, but exercising that right is forbidden under Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which renounces the use of force to settle international disputes.

The TMD system, aimed at protecting Japan and other nations in the event of missile attacks, is intended to shoot down, after detection using satellites, ballistic missiles flying within a 3,000-km radius.

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