Japan is looking to become part of NATO missile building consortium that oversees development and shares the costs of the SeaSparrow missile.
The ship-borne weapon, developed by US firms Raytheon and General Dynamics, is designed to destroy anti-ship sea-skimming missiles and attack aircraft.
The move assists the country with an opportunity to participate in multi-national defense project and provides way for japan to have similar partnership in Asia, Reuters reported Thursday.
The NATO consortium was established in 1968 by four nations to develop an upgraded version of the SeaSparrow in upcoming years. Presently the consortium has 12-countries.
Two Japanese officials who have knowledge about the initiative said discussions in Tokyo were at an early stage.
Having Japan in the consortium would spread the project's costs, but Washington also sees a role for Japan in major multinational military industrial partnerships in Asia at a time when the China's military modernization as well as assertiveness is alarming many countries, said the US official.
Such partnerships would create a network of security ties that is beyond formal military alliances, which usually involve Washington and its various regional allies.
"We think this project will allow Japan to lay the groundwork for further defense export programs in the future," the US official said.
The Japanese Navy already has the SeaSparrow missile, assembled by Mitsubishi Electric in Japan under a co-development agreement with NATO and the US manufacturers. That is why Japan's transition to a full consortium partner would not be difficult to make, the US official added.
In May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved legislation authorizing Japan to expand its military capacity beyond self-defense, enabling it for a greater international role.