U.S. offers Japan help with a missile defense in exchange for technology

September 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

TOKYO -- In a novel initiative to correct the imbalance in its technological trade with Japan, the Clinton administration proposed yesterday to aid Tokyo in building a missile defense system in exchange for access to advanced commercial technologies that could help American industry.

The unusual proposal, described to Japanese officials here yesterday by a senior Pentagon official, appears to represent the first time that the United States has offered to trade the fruits of its military research and development projects for technology that would be used primarily in non-military fields.

"This is part of a larger initiative," said the official, John M. Deutch, who is the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology. "One of the dangers for our national security is from economic weakness. We are actively looking for ways to use defense to encourage dual-use technology that serves military and civilian purposes."

For years the Defense Department has been criticized for transferring vast amounts of know-how to Japan -- particularly in the building of aircraft, ships and other military technology that Japan produces under license -- and receiving very little in return.

The immediate issue for the Japanese is the building of a missile-defense system able to detect and intercept a new generation of missiles being constructed by the Communist government in North Korea. The North tested its new missile, the Rodong 1, this summer, and the Pentagon has done little to allay Japan's fears about the potential of the North Korean missile project.

"We believe that currently North Korea has some capability in tactical ballistic missiles," Mr. Deutch said yesterday. "And the possibility that these missiles can carry nuclear, chemical or biological weapons is one of the major security dangers of the future."

But the project Mr. Deutch was discussing appeared to be quite long-term. It would involve Japan deeply in the Pentagon's plans for research, over the next five years, on a "theater missile defense" program that would protect against regional threats around the world, threats similar to the one posed by North Korea. Such a program has become the successor to the Strategic Defense Initiative.

He gave few specifics about what the United States might get in return from Japan for such technologies but said the main negotiations would have to occur between companies in the two countries, rather than just the governments. "When a frame work for this is established, you would have U.S. firms working with Japanese firms," he said.

Getting the initiative off the ground would require the approval of the new coalition government here and the cooperation of several competing Japanese bureaucracies, including the trade and defense ministries. But the biggest objections may come from the left-wing members of the coalition, which has long objected to the 33-year-old Japan Security Treaty and any expansion of Japan's military ability.

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