Japan is reportedly interested in signing on to a 12-country NATO missile consortium, created to manage and fund the development of an advanced ship-borne missile produced by U.S. arms companies. Japanese representatives traveled to The Hague in May to learn more about the project, and discussions within the government in Tokyo are apparently in an early stage. The U.S., for its part, is enthusiastic about the prospect. Reuters reports:
Having Japan on board would spread the project’s costs, but Washington also sees a role for Japan in leading multinational military industrial partnerships in Asia at a time when China’s military modernization and assertiveness is alarming many countries in the region, said the U.S. source. […]“We think this project will allow Japan to lay the groundwork for further defense export programs in the future,” the U.S. source said. “We would welcome this kind of security cooperation activity by Japan in the region.”
Joining the agreement would further Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security-minded agenda, while also satisfying America’s desire for Japanese involvement in a multi-national defense arrangement. Defense ties between countries can go beyond simply treaty obligations, and joint arms programs are one the the chief ways allies can deepen their relationship on security issues. Proponents of Japanese involvement in the missile consortium also note that the move that could get Japan making more arms deals with allies, strengthening an emerging regional coalition aimed at standing up to Beijing’s expansionism. With Abe’s grand plan for a militarizing Japan hanging in the political balance at a moment when China is lashing out against its neighbors, every bit counts.