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Japan to Buy Two US-Built Anti-Missile Systems

FILE - U.S. Forces Korea, a truck carrying parts of U.S. missile launchers needed to set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

Japan will purchase a U.S.-built, land-based missile defense system in response to what it considers the rapidly growing threat from North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved a plan Tuesday to buy two Aegis Ashore missile interceptor systems at a cost of nearly $2 billion. The new Aegis Ashore system, which duplicates the sea-based version deployed on Japanese warships, likely will not be fully operational until 2023.

Japanese defense officials also considered purchasing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, another U.S.-built anti-missile system, but chose the Aegis Ashore due to its cost-effectiveness.

A statement issued by the cabinet shortly after approving the plan said it was urgent for Japan to upgrade its ballistic missile defense capabilities in light of the "imminent" threat posed by Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. North Korea test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile late last month that could potentially reach the eastern United States.

Tokyo is also planning to purchase U.S.-built long-range cruise missiles, a decision that would prove controversial since Japan's post-World War Two pacifist constitution renounces war.