The government’s new rule on export and international joint development of weapons that the Abe administration introduced last year by discarding a long-standing arms export ban is having concrete effects. Ahead of the Oct. 1 establishment of the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency as an external bureau of the Defense Ministry, which not only handles development and procurement of weapons but also help with arms exports, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the nation’s largest business lobby, proposed that the government push weapons exports as a “national strategy.” Several universities have, meanwhile, applied for research funds provided by the Defense Ministry for development of dual-use technologies, and the ministry decided on funding for four of them as well as for companies and research institutes.
Keidanren’s proposal could pave the way for increasing the portion of weapons production in Japan’s economic output — which currently remains small — estimated at less than 1 percent of industrial production. The universities’ moves could lead to their future dependence on funds from the Defense Ministry and their greater involvement in arms development and production — a move that could potentially undermine the openness of academic research and autonomy of universities. We need to monitor such developments to see if they lead to the creation of closer links among the Defense Ministry, industries and the universities, which exert a powerful influence over the nation’s economic and academic activities.