SDF engine parts cleared for export to British navy

Kyodo

Japanese engine parts used in Self-Defense Forces ships can be sold to the British navy because they are used by the private sector and are not necessarily treated as weapons, a government source said Sunday.

The precision parts, manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., are used for a rotation axis for propellers in the gas turbine engines of Maritime Self-Defense Force escorts. A British naval ship will adopt the same parts, the source said.

The move raised concerns that Japan’s long-standing arms embargo was being violated.

Kawasaki Heavy, which is engaged in long-term technical cooperation with Britain’s Rolls-Royce plc, is making the engine parts in Japan under license from the British manufacturer.

Earlier this year, the British Royal Navy placed a replacement order for the parts with Rolls-Royce, which had already terminated production. This led it to hire Kawasaki Heavy instead.

The Royal Navy asked the MSDF to study whether export of the engine parts would contravene Japan’s so-called three principles on arms exports, which were introduced in 1967 and tightened into a virtual blanket ban in 1976.

Under the three principles, Japan prohibits weapons sales to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions, and nations involved in international conflicts.

As a result of discussions involving such bodies as Japan’s trade and defense ministries, Tokyo decided to give the green light to shipping the parts to Britain because they had been used in an engine that generates power at private incinerator plants, according to the source.

KHI will soon ship the parts to Rolls-Royce so it to supply them to the navy ship, the source said. KHI declined to comment on details, citing a nondisclosure agreement with Rolls-Royce.

In a similar case, the government allowed the export of MSDF aircraft propellers to the Afghanistan air force via the U.S. government in 2011 on the grounds that they already had been used in the private sector.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to change the arms embargo principles so Japanese companies can jump into the lucrative global defense industry and reduce the cost of procuring defense-related equipment.