Japan Plans to Purchase 400 Tomahawk Missiles from the U.S. to Deter Threats from North Korea and China

The government of Japan is moving closer to a significant purchase of 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States to enhance its military ability to avert threats from North Korea and China.

On Monday, Fumio Kishida, Japan’s Prime Minister, told lawmakers in his country’s House of Representatives that his government plans to finalize the purchase agreement in fiscal year 2023, which will begin in April.

The lower chamber passed a record $50 billion (6.8 trillion yen) in defense spending. The spending will include $1.55 billion (211.3 billion yen) to deploy Tomahawks.

The purchase of cruise missiles is to bolster the “counterstrike” capabilities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) if Russia, China, or North Korea attack it.

Tensions with China have increased substantially recently, especially regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s threats against Taiwan and a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

North Korea has routinely conducted missile tests by launching them into the Japan Sea. There has been a long-running territorial dispute between Russia and Japan related to a chain of islands located north of Japan.

Japan and the U.S. have been allies since the end of World War II. The two nations are bound to defend one another under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1960.

The SDF of Japan aims to purchase the long-range, now-upgraded variation of the Tomahawk and deploy them in both 2026 and 2027 on the Japanese Navy’s destroyers equipped with high-tech Aegis radar systems that can be utilized in ship-to-surface attacks if needed.

Prime Minister Kishida, during his appearance in front of the budget committee of the lower parliamentary house, was pressured by an opposition lawmaker on the majority Liberal Democratic Party’s push to prioritize the purchase of Tomahawks instead of prioritizing social priorities, including childcare.

Kishida answered, “I don’t think it’s about choosing between one or the other. Both are important for the lives and livelihood of the people.”

Acquisition of Tomahawk missiles likely to move forward

Japan’s acquisition of Tomahawk missiles will likely move forward later this year but must move through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales process.

Once the purchase terms are made final, the State Department and Pentagon must formally approve the sale, allowing Congress to block the deal. However, it is unlikely because of the deep connection between Japan and U.S.

The purchase will then move into the procurement phase, during which the government of Japan will work with Raytheon Corporation to buy and then deploy the Tomahawk missiles.