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US to look at Japanese arms. Japan readying first export of arms technology to US

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Many US soldiers probably watch their favorite shows on Sony TV sets and drive Japanese-made cars. Soon they may also be firing off Japanese-made missiles or driving Japanese tanks for the first time.

That is the possible implication of a precedent-setting agreement soon to be reached by United States and Japanese negotiators here.

Two years ago the Japanese government, in a break from its longstanding postwar policy, agreed to exempt the US from its ban on exporting military technology to any country.

Now the Japanese are readying the first delivery of military hardware, the prototype of an advanced shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile (SAM) being developed by the Japanese Defense Agency.

Under the agreement, the missile prototype will be brought to the US to be tested at Defense Department facilities. Actual production -- if the weapon proves to be of interest -- would be negotiated later under a separate agreement.

US defense officials are hopeful that this test-case accord will open the door to what could be a potential treasure-trove of Japanese high technology.

Japanese electronics technology, for example, could make a vital contribution to the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research.

Japanese and US negotiators met here last week to discuss the details of the arms transfer. According to a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official, the final agreement should be reached ``in a few more weeks.''

Japan and the US are partners in a 1952 ``mutual defense agreement,'' but until now the flow of defense technology has been a one-way street -- from the US to Japan.

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