Friday, July 19, 2024

Japan is further easing its historic policy on military export restrictions

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On Tuesday March 26, the Japanese government eased restrictions on the export of military equipment, the second change in this area in as many months.

Regarding the future state-of-the-art fighter jet that Tokyo is currently developing with the United Kingdom and Italy, it will be limited to export countries – currently with contracts numbering fifteen, including the United States, France, Australia or India. Exchange of defense equipment with Tokyo. As part of these agreements, they undertake to find a peaceful solution to any conflict in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

If the scope of the move is limited, it is the most significant change in Japan's military equipment export policy in over a decade. For the first time, Tokyo will be able to export lethal weapons it co-produces to other countries.

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Political rivalry

The issue has sparked months of political wrangling between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition, the Justice and Fairness Party. Opponents have criticized Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government for launching the fighter jet program without providing a public explanation or obtaining approval for major policy changes. The government has made it clear that delivery of the device to countries involved in conflicts will not be allowed.

As part of the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP), which aims to field an advanced fighter jet by 2035, Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy have established a joint industrial complex led by British groups BAE Systems, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries by 2023. . Italian Leonardo. Tokyo is working with Rome and London to build an advanced fighter jet to replace its aging fleet of US-designed F-2 fighter jets and the Eurofighter Typhoons used by the British and Italian militaries.

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Any Japanese restrictions on overseas sales and production volumes may have made the future aircraft financially unaffordable, with very high development costs for a small fleet.

A context of growing regional and global tensions

Because of its history as an aggressor and its defeat at the end of World War II, Japan adopted a constitution that restricted its military to self-defense.

The country has long maintained a strict policy of restricting transfers of military equipment and technology and banning the export of all dangerous weapons, but it has taken steps to loosen restrictions amid growing regional and global tensions, including over the role of neighbors China, North Korea or Russia.

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As Kishida prepares for a state visit to Washington in April, he is expected to reiterate Japan's willingness to play a greater role in military and industrial partnerships.

In 2014, the archipelago began exporting some dangerous military goods, and in December 2023 it approved a change allowing it to sell 80 dangerous weapons and components produced under license by other countries to license holders. The change allowed Japan to sell American Patriot missiles to the United States to replace munitions sent by Washington to Ukraine.

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