LDP, Komeito to review conditions for defense equipment transfers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Self-Defense Forces equipment, including bulletproof vests and helmets, is loaded onto a cargo plane at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo in March ahead of transportation to Ukraine.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito plan to review guidelines on the conditions for exporting defense equipment to other countries.

Under the current implementation guidelines for the Three principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, defense-related exports to countries cooperating with Japan in security areas are limited to equipment for rescue, transportation, surveillance or minesweeping.

Japan and Britain plan to jointly develop an advanced fighter jet. However, while international joint development of defense equipment is allowed under the guidelines, Japan cannot export the jointly developed jet to third countries. And if Britain wants to export the fighter jet, it will need Japan’s consent and will involve complicated procedures.

“[Current implementation of the guidelines] has created obstacles in the plan,” a senior Defense Ministry official said.

The LDP is in favor of reviewing the guidelines as the opportunity for exports could lead to lower production costs, but Komeito is cautious about the transfer of defense equipment that is capable of killing or wounding people.

A Komeito official said Japan must not permit the export of all kinds of defense equipment.

The LDP and Komeito decided to continue discussions on the review during a meeting Friday of a working team tasked with discussing revisions to three defense documents, including the National Security Strategy.

In the meeting, the government revealed a policy to offer defense equipment to countries that are unilaterally attacked by other nations in violation of international laws, such as Ukraine.

The government’s provision of defense equipment to Ukraine is based on Article 116-3 of the Self-Defense Forces Law, which states that unused equipment can be transferred to governments in developing regions.

As the law does not authorize the provision of weapons or ammunition, only non-lethal equipment such as helmets can be exported.

An LDP lawmaker said, “Our assistance [to Ukraine] is greatly inferior to that of Europe and the U.S., which are providing arms.”

In 2014, the Cabinet replaced the Three Principles on Arms Exports, which effectively banned the overseas transfer of defense equipment, with the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which allow for the conditional transfer of defense equipment.

However, the implementation guidelines for the principles strictly outline the types of items that can be exported and the necessary procedures. The only equipment exported under the guidelines was an air defense radar, which was transported to the Philippines.