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Japan to set strict rules for arms exports: Abe

Kyodo

Japan, which is set to rethink its three principles banning arms exports, will set clear and strict rules on when it engages in weapons trade, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

“We will decide on specifics such as when the transfer (of weapons) is allowed, and (use a strict) screening process,” Abe said during a plenary meeting of the House of Councilors.

Abe said the three principles need to be revised for Japan to keep up with the times, but added he acknowledges the role the rules have played in contributing to global peace over the years.

“We will continue to maintain the basic philosophy of a peaceful nation that abides by the U.N. Charter,” he said.

Adopted in 1967, the three principles ban Japan from sending weapons to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions and those involved in international conflicts.

The rules became a virtual blanket ban in 1976, with some exceptions made by past governments. In 2011, the rules were eased to allow exports for humanitarian and peaceful purposes, and to make it easier for Japan and its industries to take part in joint development and production of weapons.

Japan unveiled its first overarching national security strategy in December to cope with new security challenges, namely an assertive China, and included a rethink of the country’s restrictive policy on arms exports, a step seen as beneficial for the flagging domestic defense industry.

Under the strategy, Japan will clarify rules on when arms exports are allowed, how to impose strict checks on their use and unauthorized transfers to a third party.

Abe made the remarks on the final day of the question and answer session about his policy speech, in which he called for a stronger economy and for Japan to play a greater security role abroad.

In Thursday’s session, New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi did not raise the issue of collective self-defense, but warned Abe against the dangers of state intervention in education.

“There are strong concerns that the state is imposing a set of values on students,” Yamaguchi said of Abe’s wish to include moral education, not taught as an extracurricular activity, in the official curriculum of elementary and junior high schools.

New Komeito, the coalition partner of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has shown reluctance to support some of his key policy goals, including lifting the nation’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or defending allies under armed attack.