• Kyodo

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Japan plans to maintain its ban on arms exports to countries involved in conflicts, government sources said Thursday, in a bid to dispel concerns about a drastic overhaul of the country’s policy to restrict the shipment of weapons.

In crafting new principles on arms export controls, the government will also likely use the term “defense equipment” rather than “weapons,” the sources said.

The envisioned new arms export control guidelines, along with a possible lifting of Japan’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, would mark a major shift in Japan’s postwar defense policy based on the pacifist Constitution.

An initial draft of the new guidelines said Japan would prohibit the export of weapons if it “clearly undermines global peace and security,” according to the sources.

The wording raised concerns among the ruling bloc that Japanese-made weapons could fall into the wrong hands as “countries involved in international conflicts,” a phrase used in Japan’s long-held “three principles” on arms exports, was dropped.

Tokyo adopted the 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.

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

The government is now considering keeping a ban on arms exports to countries involved in international conflicts in the new rules, which will possibly be approved by the Cabinet in March.

The government will also define countries in conflicts as those mentioned in U.N. resolutions and blamed for triggering such conflicts.

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