The United States approves missile sales to South Korea, Japan

The USS Winston S. Churchill fires SM-2 missiles in the Atlantic Ocean in April 2018. (AFP photo) The US says it has approved the sales o...

The USS Winston S. Churchill fires SM-2 missiles in the Atlantic Ocean in April 2018. (AFP photo)
The US says it has approved the sales of air defense missiles, worth more than $600 million, to South Korea and Japan as tensions build up with North Korea.

The US will sell 94 SM-2 missiles, which are used by ships against air threats, as well as 12 guidance systems at a total cost of $313.9 million, the State Department said in a statement on Friday.

Separately, the department gave the go-ahead to sell 160 anti-air AMRAAM missiles and all the related guidance equipment to Japan totaling $317 million.

The sales "will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States" by assisting Washington’s main allies and "will not alter the basic military balance in the region," the statement said.

North Korea last week tested what appeared to be two short-range missiles in its second launch less than a week after it launched a barrage of projectiles into the Sea of Japan.

South Korea’s military reported that the north had fired a number of “unidentified projectiles” eastward from an area where one of its missile bases is reportedly located.

The projectiles were launched “from the Sino-ri area, in an easterly direction, around 4:30 p.m.” local time last Thursday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as saying in a statement.It came in the wake of talks with the United States and South Korea stalling in February, and raised alarms in both countries, which have been seeking to entice the North into abandoning its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

US President Donald Trump, who has met with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un twice, said earlier this month he was still confident he could have a deal with Kim.

Trump and Kim met at a historic summit for the first time in June last year in Singapore, where they agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Subsequent diplomacy between the two sides, however, made little progress, mainly because Washington refused to lift its crippling sanctions.

The two met for a second time in February, but Trump cut short the summit in the Vietnamese capital as they failed to strike a denuclearization deal.

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