Aspin Urges Japan to Boost Missile Defense

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IN a bid to broaden technology ties with America's key Asian ally, United States Defense Secretary Les Aspin on Nov. 2 offered to help Japan build a missile defense system in exchange for access to more of Japan's advanced commercial technologies.

Japan's interest in missile defense stems mainly from North Korea's development of ballistic missiles capable of reaching Japanese soil and its alleged pursuit of nuclear warheads, which theoretically could be delivered by missile.

Mr. Aspin discussed the issues during a 90-minute meeting with his counterpart, Keisuke Nakanishi, and he also met with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in his first visit to Tokyo as defense secretary.

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Mr. Nakanishi told Aspin his country was ``deeply interested'' in developing a means of defending against ballistic missile attack, but he made no commitments, a US official said. The official briefed reporters on condition he not be identified.

Aspin laid out two main options for Japan: Buy a ready-made missile defense system from the Pentagon, or develop such a system as part of a broader program of US-Japanese technology exchanges.

Aspin's talks with the Japanese officials also focused heavily on North Korea and prospects for persuading it to submit to full international inspections of its nuclear facilities.

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