Scrutinizing weapons exports

The Noda administration on Dec. 27 drastically relaxed Japan’s long-standing weapons-export ban. For the second time, the Democratic Party of Japan government greatly changed Japan’s defense policy without sufficient public discussions. In December 2010, it introduced the new concept of “dynamic defense capabilities,” which could undermine Japan’s basic postwar posture of “defense-only defense.”

The decision this time could contradict the spirit of the Constitution, which renounces the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

Under the new policy, Japan will be able to “transfer defense-related equipment” to other nations if it is guaranteed that they will be used solely for peace building or humanitarian assistance and that they will not be transferred to other countries.

Self-Defense Forces units that have taken part in peacekeeping or relief operations abroad can leave things like heavy construction machinery and bulletproof vests in countries where they have worked if such a guarantee is obtained. But the new policy could lead to the export of pure weapons under the name of building peace. One problem is that even if Japan has obtained the required guarantee, it can be broken.

The main point of the new policy is allowing Japanese makers to take part in joint development or production of weapons with other countries. Such activities will be allowed only when partner countries have cooperative relations with Japan in security affairs and only if such activities contribute to Japan’s security or international peace or stability.

Technologies or weapons jointly developed cannot be used for other purposes or transferred to third-party countries without Japan’s consent.

But the possibility cannot be ruled out that unlimited weapons export will be carried out under the name of securing international peace or stability or that a partner country may use jointly-developed technologies or weapons in its own military actions. It will also be difficult to stop their transfer to third-party countries.

At least the government should strictly watch joint development or production programs and stop them if they are contrary to the principle and spirit of the Constitution and the basic policy of not exporting weapons to a party to military conflict. It also should submit a detailed report on such programs to the Diet for scrutiny.