Conflict & Justice

Japan eases weapon export ban


Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo on December 27, 2011 as the Japanese government decided to approve the easing of decades-old ban on arms exports.


Yoshikazu Tsuno

Japan has decided to ease its weapons export ban to lower purchase and production costs and take part in arms-development projects with other countries, the Associated Press reported.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura made the announcement on Tuesday, and said the new rules, approved by the government, will allow Japan to participate in arms-building projects with other countries, the AP reported. Lifting the ban is a sensitive issue for the country, especially since its Asian neighbors suffered under Japan’s wartime aggression.

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Abandoning the Cold War-era restrictions comes as Japan seeks to defer costs for developing and manufacturing advanced technology in areas such as ballistic missile defense and jet fighters, the Wall Street Journal reported. This is the first major revision on the ban since it was introduced in 1967 and tightened in 1976.

"Whereas previously exceptions have been granted on a case-by-case basis, we will now institutionalize exceptions in a comprehensive manner," Fujimura said, WSJ reported.

Japan’s biggest business lobby, the Keidanren, said the easing of the ban is an “epoch-making” development, the Financial Times reported. The relaxation could also help the US and European defense companies access advanced Japanese technologies in areas such as materials and software. It should also help Japan make more effective use of its increasingly tight defense budget, the FT reported.

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The move was welcomed by the American government, the Washington Post reported. When the ban was instituted in 1967, it established the “three principles” prohibiting arms deals with communist countries, countries subject to U.N. sanctions and countries in international conflicts, the Washington Post reported. These will still remain in place despite Japan’s latest announcement.