/

Japan eyes arms exports to secure sea lanes under new rules

Kyodo

Japan will allow the export of arms to countries located along sea lanes to ensure the safe delivery of oil and other natural resources, while bolstering Japan’s defense cooperation with the United States by providing repair work for U.S. military aircraft overseas, according to a draft of new principles on arms exports.

In the first overhaul in 47 years of the long-held “three principles,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to promote exports of defense equipment and technology on condition that they benefit Japan’s security.

Japan adopted the “three principles” on arms exports in 1967, blocking the transfer of weapons to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions and those involved in international conflicts.

The new arms export control guidelines, together with a possible lift of the self-imposed ban on the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, would mark a major shift in postwar policies based on the war-renouncing Constitution.

Under the new principles, Japan would prohibit the export of weapons if they clearly undermine global peace and security. They would also require the government to impose strict checks on the transfer of arms, and conditionally allow their exports to a third country or their use for purposes other than originally stated.

The new rules would not specify communist states and countries involved in international conflicts as prohibited destinations, effectively paving the way to exporting arms to countries embroiled in a dispute.

They would also allow Japan to export arms when it joins an international joint development project, in which several countries contribute parts. This is apparently aimed, at least to start off, at the F-35 stealth fighter jet being developed by a U.S.-led consortium.

The rules would still state that the transfer of weapons will not be designed for “economic benefits,” and limit exports to certain situations. The new National Security Council would conduct “strict” screening of exports.

Given that one of the key challenges facing resource-poor Japan is to ensure safe delivery of oil and other resources, the new rules would enable the government to provide defense equipment such as infrared radar, spotlights and patrol vessels to the Philippines and Indonesia so they can combat piracy.

International organizations, such as the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, would also be able to receive weapons from Japan under the new rules.