Japan’s Weapons-Mounted Defense Equipment Exports Could Soon Be Reality as Government Expresses Favorable View

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of the Liberal Democratic Party addresses a meeting on defense exports in the Diet on Wednesday alongside Shigeki Sato, chairman of Komeito’s foreign relations and national security research committee.

A favorable view on exporting equipment that includes potentially lethal weapons has been announced by the government, as long as the items fall under one of the five categories specified as exportable under the current operational guidelines.

The implementation guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology list the five areas as rescue, transportation, vigilance, surveillance or minesweeping.

The view was announced to a working group of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, at the Diet on Wednesday. Officials from the National Security Secretariat, Defense Ministry and relevant bodies attended the meeting as well.

The government’s position could pave the way to easing the nation’s restrictions related to defense equipment exports, making it possible to export any equipment mounted with weapons as stipulated under the Self-Defense Forces Law. The caveat is that any such equipment must be intended for activities that fall under one of the five categories or are within the scope necessary for self-protection when conducting those activities.

Such instances envisioned could include exported ships for conducting operations to maintain vigilance or surveillance being mounted with guns to deal with suspicious vessels, or minesweepers being fitted with ordnance to clear sea mines.

The government also holds the view that it would be desirable to allow the transfer or export of defense-related equipment Japan will jointly develop with other nations. Concrete rules will quickly be drawn up on the issue, a move made out of consideration that Japan could export to third nations the next-generation fighter jet it is jointly developing with Britain and Italy.

The ruling parties’ working group last month compiled a document addressing issues regarding the nation’s restrictions on defense equipment exports. The LDP-led government responded to this document on Wednesday by expressing similar views. While some LDP members wanted the five specified categories eliminated, Komeito was adamant that these be kept in place. Both parties intend to hold further talks through the working group and find common ground on several issues.