US approves $3.3bn sale of anti-ballistic missiles to Japan

The USS John Paul Jones destroyer intercepted an incoming ballistic missile using Raytheon-made SM-3 Block IIA missiles in this February 2017 test - the same missiles Japan is buying (AFP Photo/LEAH GARTON) (US NAVY/AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - Washington approved the $3.3 billion sale of anti-ballistic missiles to Japan Tuesday, following close behind a series of new ballistic missile tests by North Korea that could threaten the US ally.

Japan will buy up to 73 of the Raytheon-made SM-3 Block IIA missiles, which are designed to be fired by the ship-board Aegis system to intercept incoming ballistic missiles, the Pentagon said.

The sale came as North Korea is expanding its offensive missile capabilities, having proven over the past two years the ability to launch medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, potentially nuclear-tipped, that could hit both Japan and the United States.

This month Pyongyang has carried out seven tests of new short-range ballistic missiles, at least one of which flew far enough to reach Japan.

The Pentagon also approved new arms sales to Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania and Denmark, worth together another $943 million.

Hungary will buy 180 AIM-120C-7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, also made by Raytheon, the large defense contractor.

Denmark will buy low frequency sonar systems and sonobuoys from Lockheed Martin; Lithuania will obtain 500 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and South Korea will buy 31 MK 54 lightweight torpedoes, designed to be launched from P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting aircraft.

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