• Kyodo

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A U.S. government spokeswoman on Wednesday welcomed Japan’s decision to ease a decades-old self-imposed ban on arms exports under the war-renouncing Constitution.

“We believe this is a good step. We welcome this step,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters, referring to the decision Tuesday, which enables Japan to conditionally develop arms with the United States and other allies and access new arms technology.

“What the change really does is allow Japan to modernize its defense industry and processes so it can participate in the 21st-century global acquisition marketplace,” she said.

Harf described the new policy as mutually beneficial to Japan, the United States and partner nations in terms of facilitating defense industry cooperation.

Harf tried to dispel concern among Japan’s neighbors such as China and South Korea about the intention and transparency of Tokyo’s arms exports.

“Japan has been very transparent as it’s discussed all issues relating to defense, both publicly, but also with us as well, which we think is a good thing,” she said.

China and South Korea, a U.S. ally, have voiced concerns about Japan’s move, which they see as part of an increasing militaristic shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Both countries were among victims of Japanese military aggression before and during World War II and have strongly reacted to the bid to empower the Self-Defense Forces.

After the war, Japan adopted a pacifist Constitution, limited its military expenditure and banned use of arms except in self-defense.

In 1967, Japan adopted the three principles on arms exports, which prevent exports to nations that are communist, subject to U.N. arms embargoes and involved or likely to be involved in international conflicts. The policy changed to a virtual blanket ban in 1976.

Under the new principles, Japan will prohibit the export of weapons to countries involved in conflicts. The ban would also apply when exports violate U.N. resolutions.

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