Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito lawmakers agreed Tuesday to a rigorous approval process that would apply under envisioned changes to rules governing arms exports, addressing fears that the country will undermine its pacifist status by loosening long-held restrictions on such trade.
The lawmakers endorsed the administration proposal, under which the prime minister as well as the foreign, defense and trade ministers would conduct screenings before giving the go-ahead to exports of defense equipment and related technology.
They will work out details of the plan with the aim of reaching a broader agreement at their next meeting on Tuesday.
“We can say the procedures (presented by the administration ) will help us ensure transparency,” LDP lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya told reporters after a meeting of a ruling bloc project team on the proposed new arms export rules.
Under the plan, the foreign, defense and trade ministries would screen arms exports and the National Security Council, a body launched in December by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to speed up decision making on security policy, will have the final say when export deals are important and require caution.
Responding to critics’ concerns that defense equipment and technology might fall into the wrong hands, the government plans to require recipient countries to obtain Japan’s approval for a third-party transfer.
Products manufactured by Japanese companies under license from foreign countries might be exempted, as well as parts shared with other countries to repair fighter jets, according to the draft plan.
The project team met for the second time Tuesday, as the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito try to find common ground on how much to relax the current policy.
New Komeito has resisted making drastic changes to defense and security policies based on the pacifist Constitution, raising the bar for Abe and the LDP.
New Komeito lawmaker Isamu Ueda, who heads the party’s panel on diplomacy and security, said the proposed new arms export rules will be “restrained to a great degree.”
Abe wants the new arms export rules as soon as possible after gaining approval from the ruling bloc as part of his bid to rework national security policy, which also involves lifting the self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense.
Under the new rules presented to the ruling bloc, Japan would prohibit the export of weapons to countries involved in conflicts, or if they are clearly seeking to undermine global peace and security.
The government would seek to ensure that the unstated use and transfer of defense equipment to third parties is avoided.
Japan adopted the so-called three principles on arms exports in 1967, banning the transfer of weapons to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions and those involved in international conflicts.