Japan has eased its decades-long ban on the exports of weapons and military hardware.
The Cabinet on Tuesday effectively lifted a self-imposed ban on military sales allowing Japan to jointly develop arms with allies and give the Japanese defense industry access to new markets and technology.
Under the new “three principles of arms transfer,” Japan will be able to transfer heavy machinery and other military hardware that are used by Self-Defense Forces during peacekeeping operations to foreign countries.
Since the adoption of the Three Principles on Arms Exports in 1967 under Prime Minister Takeo Miki, Japan prohibited arms exports to all countries. The principles were one of the pillars of Japan’s post-World War II renunciation of war, along with its pacifist constitution.
However, Japan has taken part in a technology transfer with the United States, its closest ally.
Japan is still not allowed to export weapons to countries that are communist, subject to UN arms embargos, or nations that are involved in—or likely to be involved in—international conflicts.
The new guidelines pave the way for deeper cooperation with the US and other close allies, such as member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in jointly developing defense technology.
“Under the new principles, we have made the procedure for transfer of defense equipment more transparent,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
“That will contribute to peace and international cooperation from the standpoint of proactive pacifism.”
The move augments Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution as it seeks a greater role for its military amid what he describes as an ever-changing security environment in the region.
China, which has long accused Japan of increasing militarism, viewed the move with suspicion.
“Against the backdrop of an intensifying swing to the right for Japanese politics, the intention behind, and effect of, massively loosening restrictions on the export of weapons really worries people,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in February.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “A Japanese SH-60J lands aboard USS McCampbell.” by Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr