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DEFENSE AND INDUSTRY

Defense firms pushing to boost role

Planned F-35 project participation leading to efforts to relax arms export ban

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With pressure mounting from U.S. defense officials and the powerful Keidanren business group on the government to relax arms export restrictions, the military-industrial lobbies in Washington and Tokyo hope the future bilateral security relationship will incorporate their interests more robustly.

At the same time, Japan is looking to expand its defense relationships with European countries, especially France and Britain, although the United States remains its primary partner.

Here are some facts about the nation’s defense industry:

How much is Japan’s defense industry worth?

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, domestic defense manufacturing amounted to about ¥1.9 trillion in 2007, or 0.6 of the nation’s total industrial production. Compare this to the U.S. defense industry, which was valued at around ¥25 trillion at a minimum.

How many defense contractors are there, and who are the main players?

In 2007 there were about 1,300 firms involved in some capacity in the production of tanks and other military vehicles, another 1,100 building parts for the F-15J fighter jet, around 1,200 tied to Patriot missile production and some 2,200 businesses involved in constructing Aegis-equipped ships.

A survey by the Japan Association of Defense Industry of 134 member companies showed more than half had defense contracts that accounted for 10 percent or less of their total business, while 25 firms relied on defense contracts for more than half of their business.

The major players include internationally known manufacturers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Sumitomo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., and dozens of small and medium-size specialist producers and IT firms that are unknown outside the defense industry.

As with civilian manufacturing, especially the automotive and electronic industries, Japan’s defense industry is a multi-tier pyramid system of contractors and subcontractors. The big corporations at the top receive contracts directly from the Defense Ministry, and much of the work is then subcontracted to smaller firms, which in turn often subcontract to more specialized enterprises.

For example, in the late 1990s a Keidanren study showed that, of the more than 1,100 companies involved in manufacturing the F-15J fighter, only 13 were prime contractors. They subcontracted production out to 530 firms, mostly small and midsize businesses, which then subcontracted work to another 593 companies.

What does Japan’s defense industry produce?

Of the ¥1.9 trillion worth of defense production in 2007, aircraft accounted for around 23 percent, weapons and ammunition another 20 percent, and communications equipment about 19 percent.

Ship manufacturing came to approximately 10 percent of the total, with smaller shares for military vehicles and other equipment.

Are Japan’s defense procurements entirely domestic?

Japan meets its military needs in four basic ways.

First, through domestic production: Sonar and radar equipment as well as many electronic components for submarines, technology the government wants to keep confidential, is made by Japanese firms.

Engine technology and vertical launching systems for ships and submarines, meanwhile, are acquired under license from major U.S. and European defense manufacturers.

Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS), or ship-based systems for detecting and destroying anti-ship missiles, are imported directly, also from manufacturers in the United States and Europe.

Finally, the Aegis weapons system is acquired through major American defense contractors under the U.S. Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales program, in which the president designates countries and international organizations eligible to receive military technology from the United States.

The U.S. State Department also approves individual programs on a case-by-case basis for military technologies that Washington deems particularly sensitive.

Does Japan export military equipment and technologies?

In 1967, the Diet enacted three principles on arms exports that forbade the shipment of weapons or military technologies to communist bloc countries, to nations subject to arms embargoes under U.N. Security Council resolutions, and to states engaged in, or likely to be involved in, international conflicts.

These principles were expanded by a 1976 Diet decision to further exclude arms exports to areas not originally included, “in conformity with Japan’s position as a peace-loving nation.”

In other words, the collateral policy guideline declared the nation would not promote arms exports, regardless of the destination.

What falls under the export ban?

Sixteen different categories of arms and military equipment are banned.

Some of the major kinds of weapons prohibited from sale overseas include firearms and their parts, ammunition — excluding cartridges — as well as all equipment used for dropping or launching ammunition, military aircraft, ships and vehicles and their associated components, anti-submarine nets, military searchlights, and bacterial, chemical and radioactive agents for military use.

With pressure to relax these restrictions intensifying, are there efforts to skirt or end the ban?

Japan has said it hopes to participate in the international development of the F-35A fighter jet.

Since December 2011, when the F-35A was formally selected as the next-generation plane to succeed the nation’s fleet of aging F-4s, the government has issued a series of statements signaling its intention to relax the export ban, backed by Keidanren and the domestic defense industry with the support of U.S. and European defense firms.

In March, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declared that participation by Japanese firms in the F-35A production process would not be bound by the three export ban principles because, under an international production agreement on the manufacture of the aircraft, any components manufactured or stored by Japanese companies or services relating to the F-35A offered by such companies would be subject to U.S. federal oversight.

Therefore, the government concluded, the transfer of Japan-produced components to countries not using the F-35A would be tightly restricted, and this would ensure that nations that did buy the fighter jet would have been shown to comply with the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter.

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