Japan Eyes Relaxing Defense Equipment Export Rules; Change Would Apply to Weapons Made Under Foreign Licenses

From the Ground Self-Defense Force’s official website
A 155mm howitzer of the Ground Self-Defense Force produced under a German license

The government and ruling parties aim to fully allow exports of defense equipment, produced in Japan under license from foreign arms makers, to the countries of the equipment’s patent holders.

Such defense equipment is manufactured in Japan by paying fees for use of the patents.

Licensor countries include the United States, Britain and Germany.

The government is likely to revise its Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and the guidelines for implementation of the principles as early as Dec. 22.

Major defense equipment which Japan produces under foreign makers’ licenses include Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) surface-to-air missiles of the United States, 81mm mortars of Britain and 155mm howitzers of Germany.

A working team of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, which discusses relaxing the rules on exports of defense equipment, on Friday compiled a draft proposal focusing on allowing exports of defense equipment produced under license.

Under the current guidelines for the three principles, fully assembled defense equipment produced in Japan under license is not allowed to be exported overseas. All that can be exported are parts and technologies produced in Japan under U.S. licenses.

This time’s planned relaxation aims to allow exports of fully assembled products to licensor countries and also to third countries except for “countries and regions where armed conflicts are going on.”

The working team had considered allowing exports of international joint development products from Japan to third countries, eyeing the next-generation fighter jets that Japan, Britain and Italy plan to jointly develop.

But Komeito expressed a cautious view toward the plan for the fighters, and thus a conclusion on that point was postponed to next year.