Relax arms export ban so firms can profit: panel

by Masami Ito

Japan should consider relaxing its ban on arms exports so defense companies can participate in international projects, a special advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday.

The panel’s comprehensive report on security and defense policies will likely form the foundation for a revision of the National Defense Program Guideline set to be completed by the end of the year.

It recommends easing the ban on weapons exports to prevent the nation’s defense industry from falling behind in international technology innovation.

“With a careful design to contribute to international peace and improvement of Japan’s security environment, (the government) should revise current arms export prohibition policy,” the report says.

The report says there is no need “for the time being ” to amend the three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing or introducing nuclear weapons into Japan.

Panel member Takashi Shiraishi, president of the Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization, a research affiliate of JETRO, added that the panel came to the conclusion that Japan shouldn’t limit the kind of action it could take in the future.

“No one is saying that we should reconsider the three nonnuclear principles ” Shiraishi told a news conference after the panel submitted its report to Kan. “But at the same time, we didn’t think it wise to limit Japan’s future actions by setting a principle that Japan won’t need to review them in the future. We felt it was necessary to point out that options should be left open.”

As the only country to be attacked with nuclear weapons, the possibility that Japan could revise the three nonnuclear principles, for which Prime Minister Eisaku Sato won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, is a controversial issue that could draw severe criticism from the public.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama stressed that the government will consider the report only as “one reference” for revising the National Defense Program Guideline.