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02:51 PM, August 31, 2017
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Ballistic rocket launching drill in North Korea in March.

Japan’s defense ministry wants $160 million for developing longer-range missiles to counter North Korea.

If the requested funds in budget is approved, the proposal for a rise of 2.5 percent in defense spending to 5.26 trillion yen ($48 billion) for the year starting April 1, would be the sixth straight annual rise, Reuters reported Thursday.

The funds meant for ballistic missile defense modernization, six F-35 stealth fighters, four V-22 Osprey tilt rotor troop carriers, besides orders for new naval vessels, including a submarine and two compact warships.

About $90 million of the requested missile development funds of $160 million will go on studying hypersonic missiles that penetrates swiftly enemy defenses. The remaining will be spent on research to extend missile range, technology that could be used to develop strike weapons.

Referring to the southwestern Okinawa island chain skirting the East China Sea, where Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China, a Ministry of Defence official said, “The research and development is for island defense.”

Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) asserted that Japan needs weapons able to strike North Korean missile sites to deter attacks by Pyongyang.

The longest range missiles in Japan’s arsenal, which includes anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions, have ranges of less than 300 kilometers.

A group of LDP lawmakers that recommended Japan acquire strike weapons was led by Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera before he took up his post in August.

“Striking enemy bases after an attack to stop subsequent launches would seem like a natural thing to do, but that would be difficult for people in Japan to accept under the current constitution,” an LDP lawmaker said.

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