Japan to Review Guidelines of Defense Export Framework

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Self-Defense Force equipment is loaded onto a U.S. military C-17 cargo aircraft at U.S. Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, in March 2022.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito will begin discussions Tuesday on revising the operational guidelines of a framework that sets the conditions for defense equipment exports, according to sources.

Discussions on the guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology are expected to get into full swing after the Golden Week holidays in May.

The main focus is likely to be whether to authorize exports of lethal equipment to enable Japan to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and to strengthen the military capabilities of like-minded countries, the sources said.

The National Security Strategy revised last December stated that the government would consider revising the operational guidelines of the framework.

Due to the cautious stance of some Komeito members, the ruling parties postponed the discussions until after the unified local elections, which conclude Sunday.

According to the sources, the ruling parties will discuss whether to authorize exports of lethal defense equipment such as tanks and missiles; increase the categories of non-lethal equipment items that can be exported; and relax procedures for exports from development-partner nations to third countries, among other things.

A revision of the guidelines would greatly expand the scope of Japan’s assistance to Ukraine, which has been limited to the export of items such as bulletproof vests and helmets. However, the LDP and Komeito hold differing opinions on these issues.

Support for Kyiv will be a major topic at the Group of Seven summit in Japan on May 19-21. Some in the government and LDP have proposed relaxing the guidelines only for Ukraine ahead of the summit.

However, a senior Komeito official expressed caution Thursday, saying, a decision must be made “without being bound by a deadline.”