Japan to lift arms-export ban for U.S. missile shield project

by

The government’s new basic defense policy will limit arms exports to missile defense-related products developed with the United States, and America would be the only recipient, politicians and government officials involved in this issue said Tuesday.

The policy will be adopted later this week.

The officials said sales of weapons and equipment concerning missile defense will be made possible as an exception to Japan’s self-imposed ban on arms exports.

In announcing the new policy, which will come in the form of a statement issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the government will clearly state that Japan will adhere to a “cautious policy” concerning arms exports, they said.

This was the most cautious among the options considered within the ruling coalition and the government on the issue of whether to lift the decades-old export ban. The Liberal Democratic Party, under strong pressure from the domestic defense industry, had been demanding that weapons exports to all nations be allowed in principle.

Based on the LDP position, the government initially planned to let firms participate in weapons development and production outside of the joint missile defense project. It also planned to allow sales of equipment deemed purely defensive, including flak jackets and night-vision goggles, to all nations in principle.

But the LDP’s coalition partner, New Komeito, which is backed by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, insisted that arms exports be limited to areas related to missile defense projects with the U.S.

The policy will reflect New Komeito’s stance, the politicians and officials said.

Hosoda’s statement will also state that whether to allow exports of other weapons will be judged on a case-by-case basis “in light of the nation’s basic philosophy as a peaceful nation that does not encourage international disputes,” they said in a statement.

Japan has conducted joint research with the U.S. since 1999 on a next-generation missile interception system, which is expected to move on to the next phase of development and deployment soon.

Defense talks deadlock

The Defense Agency and Finance Ministry on Tuesday failed again to agree on the extent of ground troop reductions in Japan’s defense strategy for the coming decade and the next five-year midterm defense budget, ruling coalition lawmakers said.

Yoshinori Ono, director general of the Defense Agency, and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki failed to find common ground Tuesday afternoon during last-ditch negotiations. They will meet again Wednesday. Time is running out, as the ruling coalition is moving to approve the strategy.