Japan has reportedly picked major US military contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. to provide advanced radar for its multi-billion-dollar missile defense system.
The decision on the radar supplier was revealed Tuesday by an unidentified Japanese Defense Ministry official cited in a Reuters report.
The report said Tokyo could now add the purchase to a military budget proposal scheduled for release in August.
Japan reportedly intends to purchase two Aegis Ashore batteries for deployment in 2023 in an upgrade of its missile defense systems against North Korean and Chinese armaments.
The two Aegis Ashore sites will likely cost at least twice as much as Japan’s initial estimate of two billion dollars, anonymous sources said, adding that the purchase could also help ease trade friction with Washington.
US President Donald Trump has called on Tokyo to purchase more American military equipment and other products in a bid to balance a trade deficit with Japan.
Japan’s trade surplus with the US dropped 17.3 percent to 340.7 billion yen (4.2 billion dollars) year-on-year in May, marking the lowest level since January 2013, as Tokyo boosted its imports of US coal and aircraft.
Reports said last week that the candidates for Japan’s radar system were US-based military contractor Raytheon Co’s SPY-6 and a version of Lockheed Martin Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR).
The Japanese defense official cited in the Reuters report also said that Lockheed’s radar had been selected due to its search capabilities and since its life cycle cost would be less than that of the Raytheon system.
Authorities at Lockheed and Raytheon said, however, that they had yet to be officially notified about the outcome of the radar bid.
Japan’s latest budget proposal comes amid a relative easing of regional tensions following a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.
The two agreed to work toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. After the summit, Trump also suspended “large-scale” war games with South Korea.
Japanese military authorities, however, continue to view North Korea as an immediate threat.
“North Korea needs to show it is making concrete steps to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, and it has yet to do so,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a Tuesday press briefing.
Tokyo also perceives China’s growing military might as a long-term menace.