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The Defense Ministry will promote the private use of aircraft developed for the Self-Defense Forces while adhering to a de facto ban on arms exports, officials said Friday.

The private use of such aircraft will enable developers to reduce their reliance on the ministry and tap into commercial markets, according to a report adopted by a study panel under the ministry the same day.

The report also said that the ministry can expect price falls in aircraft as a result of commercial production.

The panel has been discussing the possible private use of military aircraft, such as the XC-2 next-generation transport aircraft developed for the Air Self-Defense Force and the P-3C patrol aircraft for the Maritime Self-Defense Force, in a bid to reduce the cost of defense equipment and revitalize defense contractors at a time when a sharp increase in the nation’s defense budget cannot be expected.

During the day’s panel meeting, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said the private use of defense equipment will realize cost cuts and contribute to economic growth, according to the officials.

First strike capability

Japan should acquire the capacity to strike an enemy’s missile launch sites in light of threats from North Korea’s long-range ballistic missiles, Parliamentary Defense Secretary Akihisa Nagashima said Friday.

“It is natural that questions arise over whether Japan can sufficiently defend itself without such a capacity,” Nagashima told a symposium in Tokyo.

Last June, defense policymaking panels of the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party proposed that Japan acquire the capacity to strike an enemy’s missile launch sites following North Korea’s rocket launch, which Tokyo saw as a cover to test its ballistic missile technology, and its nuclear test.

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