Japan, U.S. Eye Greater Production of Defense Parts Amid Concerns Over Insufficient U.S. Stockpile

Reuters file photo
Japan and U.S flags

Japan and the United States are preparing to agree to strengthen their joint production of defense equipment and to specify this in the outcome document for a summit meeting scheduled for April, according to sources in both governments.

U.S. production capacity has been strained by its support for Ukraine, which has been subject to Russian aggression. Japan is aiming to demonstrate the unity of the Japan-U.S. alliance by supporting U.S. aid for Ukraine, and to maintain deterrence.

The main agenda of the April 10 meeting between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington will be strengthening cooperation between the defense industries of Japan and the United States, according to the sources. There are concerns on the U.S. side that prolonged support for Ukraine and other factors could lead to an insufficient stockpile of artillery shells and missiles.

Last December, Japan revised the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and its Implementation Guidelines. In conjunction with this, Japan decided to export Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles to the United States to help compensate for the U.S. missile shortage.

At the upcoming summit meeting, Japan and the United States are expected to confirm their policy of accelerating these complementary relations. The two countries are also eyeing China’s growing hegemonic power and want to strengthen their supply chains for defense equipment, according to the sources.

Specifically, the meeting is expected to envision the expansion of parts production, based on the fact that the three principles and implementation guidelines have been revised to allow for the export of a wide range of parts for defense equipment. Parts for howitzers, which are widely used in Ukraine, are among the items that have been considered.

Japan and the United States will work swiftly to identify equipment, including ammunition, that will be produced in greater numbers.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Japanese and U.S. governments are also considering the full-fledged development of an endeavor in which Japanese companies would regularly service and repair U.S. military equipment, and they intend to make this an agenda item at the summit meeting, according to the sources.

The U.S. 7th Fleet and other naval vessels deployed to Japan are among the candidates for this endeavor. Currently, large-scale maintenance is conducted on the U.S. mainland, but if it could be done in Japan, it would help shorten the period of inactivity during maintenance and curb costs.

It is also expected to strengthen Japan’s defense production and technology base.

The F-35A state-of-the-art stealth fighter has also emerged as a candidate. However, some within the Japanese government have said there is little space for a Japanese maintenance base for naval ships. There is also reportedly caution within the U.S. Congress that if Japan were to undertake a series of such work, it could affect U.S. employment. The two governments are planning to carefully consider the matter.

Kishida is scheduled to visit the United States as a state guest in April, and to address a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate.