Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and British leader David Cameron agreed Tuesday in Tokyo to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation, including joint weapons development, in what will be the first such case since Japan eased its de facto ban on arms exports.
It is also the first time Japan has agreed to develop weapons with a country other than the United States.
Noda and Cameron agreed to launch at least one joint weapons program, according to a joint statement released after their 30-minute-long summit and one-hour working dinner at the prime minister’s office.
Japanese officials said the two leaders did not discuss specific weapons systems for development. But they did mention Rolls-Royce engine technology for helicopters during their talks, the officials said.
Japan had maintained a policy of not exporting any weapons because the pacifist Constitution prohibits the country from using the right of collective self-defense with other countries.
But recently the government has eased the policy in order to jointly develop weapons with the U.S., given the soaring development costs of high-tech weapons and Japan’s snowballing national debt.
In their joint statement, Cameron and Noda stressed that they will ensure “strict control” to prevent their arms technology from falling into the hands of a third country and from “extra-purpose use of defense equipment.”
Cameron arrived in Tokyo at noon for a first two-day state visit, his first to Japan. Before meeting Noda, Cameron visited the global headquarters of Nissan Motor Corp. in Yokohama.
Nissan used the visit “to signal its commitment to U.K. manufacturing” and announced plans to produce a new midsize hatchback at its Sunderland plant in Britain starting in 2014, the automaker said.
During the summit in Tokyo, the two leaders shared deep misgivings about North Korea’s planned launch of a long-range rocket between Thursday and Monday, according to the joint statement.
They agreed that the launch would be a violation of United Nations resolutions and urged Pyongyang to reconsider.
They also stressed that North Korea should address various humanitarian issues, including the abduction of Japanese nationals to the hermit state.
During the meeting, Cameron expressed sympathy with Japan over the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The two leaders signed the Japan-U.K. Framework on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, and agreed to cooperate on decontamination work and decommissioning of the three troubled reactors at the nuclear plant.
In the nuclear statement, Britain expressed hope that Japan will further promote use of civil nuclear energy, despite growing antinuclear sentiment in Japan over the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“As an increasing number of countries around the world are expressing interest in civil nuclear energy to reduce carbon emissions and provide low-cost, secure energy supplies which can contribute to a sustainable energy future, the U.K. expects Japan to continue to play an important role in nuclear safety, nonproliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy globally,” the statement said.
Japan and Britain also agreed to hold annual senior-level dialogue between government officials on nonmilitary nuclear technologies, the statement said.
During the summit meeting, Noda expressed gratitude to Cameron for his strong support in starting talks on establishing an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union.
Japan has been actively seeking an EPA with the EU, but some European countries have been reluctant, urging Japan to take action on its nontariff barriers in various areas, including the process for government procurement.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to launch negotiations on a Japan-EU partnership.
Earlier in the day Cameron paid a courtesy visit to Emperor Akihito.
He is scheduled to leave Japan on Wedneday.