Japan's defence firms to debut at French arms show as Abe eases curbs

TOKYO Fri May 23, 2014 3:20am EDT

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TOKYO May 23 (Reuters) - Japanese military contractors will exhibit their wares at an arms and security show in France for the first time next month, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eases curbs on the nation's weapons exports.

Fourteen Japanese firms, including wartime Zero fighter maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, will attend Eurosatory, many of them participating in the first Japanese pavilion, a person familiar with their plans told Reuters.

The Japanese companies will focus on security systems such as surveillance cameras rather than military equipment, the person said.

Still, the debut marks a significant step after Abe last month eased the government's strict curbs on arms sales abroad, seeking to fortify ties with allies and bolster Japan's defence industry as he pursues a more muscular military and diplomatic role for the country.

Tapping foreign markets and joining international development programmes would allow Japanese arms makers to build bigger lots at a lower unit cost and help the government cut procurement costs as Abe reverses a decade of military budget cuts.

The arms bazaar, held every two years, runs from June 16 to June 20 in Paris and bills itself as the "largest international land and air-land defence and security exhibition."

Japanese exhibitors will include Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd, which build planes, submarines and helicopters for the Japanese military, electronics giant NEC Corp, a major maker of military communications equipment, and industrial conglomerates Hitachi Ltd and Toshiba Corp..

They will be joined by around 1,400 exhibitors from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and elsewhere displaying products ranging from tanks and missiles to unmanned aerial vehicles and body armour. (Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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