The government will allow Japanese companies to take part in the manufacture of parts for F-35 fighter jet as an exception to the nation’s ban exporting weapons, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.
The green light is being given on the grounds that the United States, which is chiefly responsible for the development of the stealth jet, will “strictly” control shipments, according to Suga’s released statement.
The move could raise concerns that such parts exports will go against Japan’s policy of avoiding possible aggravation of international conflicts, in light of the possibility that Israel could buy F-35s with parts made by Japanese firms.
The jet is being developed by an international consortium led by U.S. aircraft giant Lockheed Martin Corp.
Israel plans to acquire F-35s.
Suga’s statement says Japan will continue to uphold its “basic principle of being a pacifist nation.” It also states that domestic manufacturers’ participation will help “maintain, nurture and upgrade the basis of our country’s production of defense material and its related technology.”
Japan signed a deal with the United States last year to purchase four F-35s by fiscal 2016 with plans to eventually procure 42 as the Air Self-Defense Force’s workhorse fighter.
Under the “three principles on arms exports,” introduced in 1967 by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Japan prohibited weapons exports to communist states, countries subject to arms embargoes under U.N. resolutions and nations involved in international conflicts. The rules were tightened into a virtual blanket ban in 1976.
Exceptions have since been made, starting with the supply of weapons technology to the United States in 1983, and production of missile defense systems with the United States in 2004.
The principles were eased further in December 2011 under the Democratic Party of Japan to make it possible for Japan to participate in joint weapons development and production with other nations to contribute to international peace.
The provision to other nations of noncombat equipment used by the Self-Defense Forces, such as heavy construction machinery and protective vests, was also made possible for humanitarian purposes under the relaxed ban.