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Dismantled Self-Defense Force Vehicles Sold Overseas as ‘Waste’

From exporter’s website
A photo that appeared on the website of a used car exporter in the Koshinetsu region of north-central Honshu until late September shows stacked vehicle bodies.

Export paperwork procedures were conducted for at least 19 Ground Self-Defense Force high-mobility vehicles over the 11 years since 2012, with the dismantled vehicles legally considered “waste,” The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Some of these vehicles also were actually exported. This appears to have been done on the assumption that the vehicles were in such a condition that they could be reused overseas, as only some parts had been removed.

When the GSDF sells off high-mobility vehicles at the end of their 14-year service life, the winning bidder is required to reduce them to scrap. In addition, the contractor must, in line with the automobile recycling law, report to the Japan Automobile Recycling Promotion Center, a Tokyo-based public interest incorporated foundation, that the vehicles have been dismantled or broken into pieces. This same process is required for regular vehicles that are scrapped.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed contractors that won bids and those involved in dismantling and breaking up vehicles based on an examination of bid documents and other sources. As a result, it was learned that five contractors in the Kanto region and elsewhere notified the center between April 2012 and April 2023 that a total of 19 vehicles would be exported as “dismantled vehicles” or “scrap parts.” In March 2019, the GSDF amended bidding regulations to prevent retired vehicles from being resold, and obligated contractors to present images proving the vehicles had been turned into scrap metal.

However, it appears that 11 of the 19 vehicles were sold off through bidding between July 2019 and July 2022 — after the regulations were changed.

Four other vehicles were acquired at auction by a scrap metal wholesaler in the Kanto region, and a wrecking company in Chiba Prefecture notified the center in June 2020 that the vehicles would be exported as “scrap parts.” A separate contractor ultimately put these vehicles on sale on a website for overseas buyers, but the sales were canceled in September 2023 after the Yomiuri reported on the issue of the GSDF’s high-mobility vehicles turning up in working order overseas after being sold in Japan.

In June 2017, a used car parts sales company in the Sanin region informed the center that it would export one high-mobility vehicle.

“We cut up the vehicle, but in such a way that it could be put back together,” an official of the sales company told the Yomiuri. “We sold it to a dealer in Vladivostok in Russia.”

The company reportedly had previously used a similar method to export at least 10 Self-Defense Forces vehicles.

According to the Environment Ministry’s Recycling Promotion Office and other sources, scrapped parts that have been stripped of hazardous substances and other components can be exported for use as vehicle parts even while being classified as waste. However, an official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Automobile Division said, “Having this scrap being used again at the export destination runs counter to the spirit of the automobile recycling law.”

An official of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency said, “We can’t comment on any individual cases.”