By Brad Lendon, CNN
Japan on Tuesday announced plans to develop and build an array of advanced long-range missiles as it bolsters its defenses amid increasing tensions with neighboring China.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said it had signed contracts with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to develop and mass produce the weapons under a plan extending to 2027.
The deals, worth more than $2.8 billion, follow Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s announcement in December that he planned to boost defense spending and enable Japan to possess “counterstrike capabilities,” the ability to directly attack another country’s territory in the event of an emergency and under specific circumstances.
In taking the new defense initiatives, Japan is bending the interpretation of its post-World War II constitution, which put constraints on its Self-Defense Forces in that they can only be used for what their name implies, defending the Japanese homeland.
Under the deals, MHI will begin mass production this year on two types of already developed missiles — ground-launched Type 12 guided missiles designed to target ships at sea and hypersonic glide missiles designed for island defense, the ministry said. Deployment of those weapons is scheduled for 2026 and 2027, it said.
The Defense Ministry news release did not say how many of each missile would be acquired.
Meanwhile, MHI will this year begin development of advanced versions of the Type 12 that can also be launched by aircraft and ships. Defense industry news site Janes reported that the updgraded Type 12 will have a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), five times the reach of the current version.
At the same time, MHI will begin development of submarine-launched missiles that could be fired by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s fleet of conventionally powered boats.
In December, Kishida instructed his defense and finance ministers to secure funds to increase Japan’s defense budget to 2% of current GDP in 2027.
Along with the development of Japan’s own missiles, Kishida said in February the country planned to buy as many as 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States. Tomahawks can hit targets as far as 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away.
Japan’s military buildup comes amid increasing tensions with China, which has been growing its naval and air forces in areas near Japan while claiming the Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited Japanese-controlled chain in the East China Sea, as its sovereign territory.
Meanwhile, China has been upping its military pressure on Taiwan, the self-ruled island whose security Japanese leaders have said is vital to that of Japan.
Just this week, Japan scrambled fighter jets as a Chinese aircraft carrier group came within 230 kilometers (143 miles) of the southern Japanese island of Miyako while it simulated strikes on Taiwan.
Chinese military exercises around Taiwan last August including the launching of ballistic missiles, some of which landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
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CNN’s Emiko Jozuka contributed to this report.