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Japan Orders Hundreds Of Missiles, Helicopters, As China Flexes Muscles

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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Japan will continue buying weapons from the U.S. as tensions with China over the South China Sea reach a boiling point.

The U.S. approved Japan’s request to buy hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles Tuesday, a sale that could be worth as much as $821 million. The U.S. Navy announced earlier this week that four more Bell V-22 Osprey helicopters will be delivered to Japan in the next four years.

Japan is eligible to purchase up to 246 SM-2 Block IIIB Standard missiles from U.S. defense manufacturer Raytheon. The missiles “will be used for anti-air warfare at sea,” and loaded on one of Japan’s four destroyers, according to the Department of State’s announcement. Japan is also building two more destroyers that will be capable of launching the missiles.

Bell Boeing, a joint project between Bell Helicopter and Boeing, sold five V-22 Ospreys to Japan last year, which marked the first international sale of the helicopter. The Osprey boasts the “vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft,” and has become the primary aircraft used by U.S. Marines for operations in the Middle East.

Japan has not been a major defense player in the region since its defeat in WWII, when its revised constitution banned any military activities besides self-defense. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed constitutional reforms last year that now allow the country to express military power overseas.(RELATED: Japan Considers MASSIVE $40 Billion Buy Of US Fighter Jets)

Chinese officials refused to acknowledge a ruling by an international tribunal last week that said it had no claim to the South China Sea. China continues to express its power in the region, and plans to block off major shipping routes to conduct military drills in the area.(RELATED: China Risks Air War With US Above South China Sea)

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