Asia Pacific

Trump says Japan, South Korea can buy more 'highly sophisticated' U.S. military equipment

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet Tuesday that he would let Japan and South Korea buy even more “highly sophisticated” American military equipment as the two allies look to bolster their defenses against nuclear-armed North Korea.

“I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump said in the tweet without providing details.

The tweet came amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula after Pyongyang on Sunday conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, a blast that it claimed was of a hydrogen bomb designed to be mounted on a long-range missile. The North also stoked concern in Tokyo when it lobbed an intermediate-range missile over Hokkaido last week — the first unannounced firing over Japan of a weapon designed to carry a nuclear payload.

Late last month, Japan’s Defense Ministry requested a record-high budget of ¥5.26 trillion for fiscal 2018, highlighting government concerns over the “unprecedented, serious and significant” security threat posed by the North’s repeated military provocations.

The envisioned budget includes what the ministry calls “new assets” to defend against ballistic missile attacks by the North. These include the U.S.-made land-based Aegis Ashore anti-missile system and the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor missile, which is jointly developed with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The ministry says these weapons will help Japan cast a wider net over the archipelago to prevent incoming missiles from striking the country. The ministry is also seeking an upgraded version of the current U.S.-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-missile system that is deployed throughout the country.