Agreement Reached on Next-Generation Fighter Jet Exports; LDP, Komeito Talks Focus on Komeito’s Concerns

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

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito have agreed to allow exports of next-generation fighter jets which Japan will jointly develop with Britain and Italy.

The agreement came on Friday as the two ruling parties discussed details related to the export of finished defense equipment that Japan jointly develops with other countries.

The two parties also acknowledged that strict procedures will be set for the exports — called “double cabinet approval” — under which the cabinet approval will be required for each individual exportation as well as for the policy of approving exports

The LDP’s Polity Research Council Chairperson Kisaburo Tokai met his Komeito counterpart Yosuke Takagi in the Diet Building, where they reached the agreement.

Komeito has called for strict procedures and measures to curb the unrestricted expansion of defense-related exports. Expected restrictions will center on limiting both the types of defense equipment to be exported and the export destinations.

Based on the two-party agreement, the government plans to hold a meeting of nine ministers of the National Security Council later this month to revise the implementation guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology.

Under the revised guidelines, the next-generation fighter jets will be exported only to countries that have signed agreements with Japan in line with the United Nations Charter, which stipulates that disputes should be settled by peaceful means. Currently, Japan has concluded such agreements with 15 nations, including the United States, Britain and some Southeast Asian countries. As a countermeasure against contributing to conflicts, the government plans to exclude countries “involved in armed conflicts” from the list of nations to which the next-generation fighter jets can be exported.

The government initially asked the LDP to conclude its consultation with Komeito by the end of February, as the three countries were expected to start full-fledged negotiations on the development plan for the next-generation fighter jet in March.

However, the ruling parties’ talks stalled, as Komeito cited concerns about a significant expansion of exports in the future. Therefore, the two parties upgraded the framework of their consultations to the policy chief level to move the talks forward, focusing on the issues that are important to Komeito, such as establishing measures to restrict exports. They will also discuss how to explain the decision to the public.