Updated: 07/18/2014 04:35 | By Agence France-Presse

Japan, Britain to launch joint missile research

Japan said Thursday it would join forces with Britain to jointly develop missile technology for fighter jets, while also moving to export Japanese-made parts for US surface-to-air missiles.

Japan, Britain to launch joint missile research

Japanese soldiers prepare to refuel Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile launchers deployed at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on April 15, 2013 - by Toru Yamanaka

The decision comes several months after Japan lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks to expand Japan's diplomatic and military presence on the global stage.

The exports would be the first since Japan in April approved a new policy that replaces its 1967 blanket ban on shipping arms overseas.

The joint research with Britain was linked to a European missile project called Meteor, with an initial emphasis on how current Japanese technology could enhance British-developed missiles, according to a statement jointly issued by several ministries, including Japan's foreign and defence ministries.

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.

"We believe that we can create more sophisticated products by bringing together the finest technologies from both Britain and Japan," a Japanese defence official told a press briefing Thursday evening.

A spokesperson for Britain's Ministry of Defence welcomed the joint project. 

"This is a positive reflection of growing levels of co-operation between UK industry and Japan," the spokesperson said.

In a separate decision, Tokyo would also allow US-bound exports of parts for the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missile defence system developed by Washington.

The parts were originally supplied by a US defence contractor that no longer makes the product.

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

Under Japan's new arms export 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.

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