Proposal Postpones Conclusion on Export by Japan of Jointly Developed Defense Equipment

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera speaks during a meeting of a working team on the easing of defense equipment exports on Friday.

A draft proposal compiled by a working team of the ruling parties postpones a conclusion on the transfer to third countries of internationally jointly developed defense equipment, with the joint development of a next-generation fighter jet with Britain and Italy in mind.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito approved on Tuesday the draft proposal drawn up by the working team, which is discussing the easing of restrictions on the export of defense equipment.

The draft proposal stipulates that support other than that for arms should be expanded for countries facing aggression.

The document states that “equipment that does not fall under the category of weapons of the Self-Defense Forces should generally be transferable.”

Japan is providing bulletproof vests and other items to Ukraine, but it has taken a long time to complete the necessary procedures, including hastily revising the Implementation Guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology. The draft proposal is aimed at enabling prompt assistance to such countries in the future.

The draft proposal also includes a significant relaxation of the export of licensed products that are manufactured in Japan by paying patent fees to foreign companies. Currently, only parts can be exported to the United States, but the draft proposal states that exports of not only parts but also finished products to countries other than the United States “should be made possible.”

Under the draft proposal, the transfer of defense equipment to third countries from countries that hold patents would be allowed with Japan’s prior consent. In cases in which the defense equipment falls under the category of arms under the Self-Defense Forces Law, the draft proposal states, “It should be ensured that the defense equipment will not be transferred to countries where fighting is taking place.”

The government is expected to make a decision by the end of the year on support for countries facing aggression and on the relaxation of the rules on the transfer of licensed products after examining the draft proposal.

On the other hand, the draft proposal states only that “discussions will be continued in order to reach a conclusion promptly” on internationally jointly developed defense equipment. Some LDP members had strongly called for approving the direct transfer of such equipment from Japan to third countries, but the government took into consideration the cautious stance of Komeito.