The Cabinet on Tuesday approved eased principles and guidelines for weapons exports, ending a strict ban that lasted nearly 50 years as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sets the stage for Japan to play a more active role in global security.

The newly adopted three principles on the transfer of defense equipment prohibit Japan from exporting arms to countries involved in conflict and to those that violate U.N. resolutions. However, Japanese firms will be able to export weapons when the deals pass government screenings, a major policy change from the previous rule of banning arms exports to all countries, apart from a few exceptions.

The new principles state that Japan will continue to embrace the basic philosophy of a pacifist state that abides by the U.N. Charter, but the change in rules has sparked concern that the nation's trade in weapons could expand in the future.