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Japan and Britain to launch joint missile research: report

TOKYO -- Japan and Britain are to jointly develop missile technology for fighter jets, while Tokyo may also start exporting Japanese-made parts for U.S. surface-to-air missiles, a report said Thursday.

The plan — which comes months after Japan lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports — was likely to be approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet at a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, the Mainichi Shimbun reported, without citing sources.

The joint research with Britain was linked to a European missile project called Meteor, while the parts exports would be destined for Washington's Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missile defense system, the report said.

If approved, the U.S. exports would be the first since Japan in April approved a new policy that replaces its 1967 blanket ban on shipping arms overseas, the Mainichi said.

Under the new rules, weapon sales are still banned to conflict-plagued countries or nations that could undermine international peace and security, and they must contribute to international peace and boost pacifist Japan's security.

Responding to questions about the Mainichi report, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's top spokesman, said: “I'm aware of the report but I don't know the specifics.”

The Meteor project, which is developing missiles for Eurofighter planes, is being led by Franco-British missile maker Matra BAe Dynamics (MBD) along with other European firms.

An earlier report this month by the leading Nikkei business daily said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to export a high-performance sensor to the United States for its PAC-2 missile defense system.

The sensor is a key component of an infrared device at the tip of the missile that identifies and tracks targets, the Nikkei said.

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