Japan Proposes Plan to Limit Next-Gen Fighter Jet Exports; Ruling Parties Hope to Ensure Jets Do Not Contribute to Conflicts

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito policy chiefs meet to discuss the easing of restrictions on defense equipment exports in Tokyo on Friday.

The government has proposed a plan to exclude countries involved in armed conflicts from the list of nations where next-generation fighter jets — currently being jointly developed by Japan, Britain and Italy — can be exported in an effort to curb the expansion of exports.

The proposal was submitted to the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito on Friday to ensure that the export of next-generation fighter jets does not contribute to conflicts.

The government has also included a plan to postpone a broad relaxation of export restrictions on other products, including those that are being jointly developed, except for the fighter jet.

The proposal was presented at a meeting between the LDP and Komeito policy research committee chiefs on Friday.

The government has decided to allow only the next-generation fighter jet to be exported to third countries and will decide on the export of other jointly developed equipment on a case-by-case basis.

Exports of next-generation fighter jets will be limited to countries that have signed equipment and technology transfer agreements with Japan. The jets will not be exported to countries that are involved in conflict.

The ruling parties will conduct a preliminary review before making a decision to export fighter jets, establishing a framework in which Komeito will be able to participate in the decision-making process.

Komeito has demanded that the government implement strict measures to prevent unlimited expansion of the export of next-generation fighter jets as a condition for its approval.

After receiving the proposal, the LDP and Komeito plan to hold another meeting among the policy chiefs as early as this week to speed up discussions regarding the plan’s details.

Komeito responds positively

Some members of Komeito have responded positively to the government’s proposal. The coalition partner is planning to seek a consensus within the party as early as this week on whether to approve it, sources said.

“Komeito is gaining a better understanding of this matter. We are making steady progress,” LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Kisaburo Tokai told reporters after a meeting with his Komeito counterpart Yosuke Takagi on Friday.

Takagi also told reporters that he said during the meeting that “[the next-generation fighter] is not something that can be transferred [exported] without rules.”

Regarding the government’s proposal, Takagi told reporters, “I would like to bring it back to the party and seek agreement.”

Komeito will hold a meeting of the party’s foreign affairs and security committee Tuesday to begin in earnest procedures to obtain internal approval from the party, according to the sources.

The LDP will also have to go through internal procedures. “I think we will be fine mostly,” Tokai said.

Komeito has warned that allowing exports of the next-generation fighter would lead to a complete lifting of the ban on the export of products jointly developed with other countries. The party has also called for measures that would keep exports from fueling conflicts.

Komeito had been cautious about the export of jointly developed products, citing a lack of explanation from the government. However, the party shifted to accepting the government’s plan after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida explained the need for the exports at the House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Since the initial target date for agreement was the end of February, some in the government and ruling parties have said that if the prime minister had made a move a little earlier, it would not have taken so long.