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Japan to change rules, export Patriots to enable US to send more to Ukraine

Japan plans major policy shift on defense exports that would permit supplying Patriot missiles to the US, freeing up more for Ukraine’s strained air defenses.
Patriot anti-aircraft missile system launchers. Credit: Bundeswehr/Jonas Weber

Japan is preparing a major shift in its defense export regulations that would pave the way for the country to provide its Patriot missiles to the United States. The policy change, expected to be finalized this week, responds to urgent requests from Washington amid shortfalls in Ukraine’s air defenses, The Washington Post reports.

The modification would not explicitly mention the Patriot system but “will meet a key request by the Biden administration, said US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because discussions are ongoing,” according to WP.

The cabinet may announce the change this Friday, 22 December. Japan won’t send Patriots to Ukraine directly but may send dozens of Patriot interceptors it produces under US license to the US to backfill American stockpiles. A decision on the quantity is expected “relatively soon,” according to the WP source.

In turn, this would give the US latitude to transfer more of the critical missile defense systems to aid Ukraine against punishing Russian aerial assaults.

The munitions in question consist of PAC-2 and PAC-3 interceptors. PAC-2 is designed to destroy certain ballistic missiles through nearby explosions, while PAC-3 is a hit-to-kill munition targeting missiles and aircraft with greater explosive power. Analysts estimate PAC-3 interceptors to cost around $4 million each.

Russia conducts daily air attacks on Ukraine, employing cruise and ballistic missiles, aerial bombs, and suicide drones. Ukraine relies on the Patriot system as its sole defense against Russian ballistic missiles.

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