TOKYO -- Japan's Defense Ministry decided Tuesday to fast-track funding for research on a possible rollout of the U.S.-made THAAD missile defense system in response to a growing threat from North Korea.
The ministry aims to secure more than 100 billion yen ($867 million) in extra funding as part of the third supplementary budget for the fiscal year ending in March.
The proposed outlays for research on missile defense follow similar requests for the fiscal 2016 budget. In June, the North Korean regime launched a missile using a lofted trajectory, necessitating more detailed study by the Japanese side on missile shields. The two systems under consideration are the land-based Aegis Ashore, armed with SM-3 missiles, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. The Defense Ministry will step up information collection from the U.S. armed forces and other sources.
A portion of the money will also be used to upgrade Patriot PAC-3 surface-to-air missiles. The range of those missiles will be doubled from the current radius of just dozens of kilometers. The Defense Ministry has requested about 100 billion yen in the fiscal 2017 budget, but a portion of those funds will be included in the supplementary budget so the upgrades can happen more quickly.
The extra funds will also cover necessities such as ammunition, fuel and other fixed costs connected to the Self-Defense Forces.
The ministry's intentions for the supplementary budget were revealed at a meeting with lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including former defense ministers. The extra budget and the draft fiscal 2017 budget are slated for authorization by the cabinet Dec. 22.
North Korea has fired 20-plus ballistic missiles so far this year.