TOKYO Feb 28 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
has lost a potential deal to supply tank engines to
Turkey because of restrictions that remain in place on Japan's
military exports, officials in Turkey and Japan said.
The development shows the limits of Japan Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe's effort to dismantle a near total ban on Japanese
weapons exports that has shut the country's defence contractors
out of overseas markets since World War Two.
Abe is pushing to ease the terms of Japan's self-imposed
weapons export restrictions in part to lower Japan's defence
procurement costs as part of a bid to build a more robust
military to counter the rising regional power of China.
Mitsubishi Heavy had been under consideration to supply
engines for the Altay tank being developed by Turkey's Otokar
since last year.
But on Thursday Murad Bayar, Turkey's undersecretary for
state-run defence industries, told reporters that the potential
deal had been quietly dropped in talks with Tokyo.
"We have agreed with Japanese authorities to leave this
topic off the agenda and focus on other areas of co-operation,"
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had raised the issue
of Japan's co-operation in supplying tank engines when Abe
visited Ankara in May. The approach by Erdogan sparked a round
of talks between officials from the two countries and a visit to
Turkey by Japanese engineers, officials in Japan said.
A spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy said the company had no
comment because the discussions were a "government matter."
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, said on
Friday that he was not aware of the status of the talks with
Turkey but said any agreements would be based on the policies
that limit Japan's military.
Japan, which renounced the right to wage war in its postwar
constitution, effectively banned arms exports in 1967.
Under new guidelines being developed by Abe's coalition
government, exports would be approved by the trade ministry if
they were judged to serve peaceful missions or if joint
development of a weapon was deemed to enhance national security,
a person with knowledge of the review has told Reuters.
But the more lax arms exports standards under consideration
by the Abe administration would still carry a requirement that
Japan be consulted before weapons using Japanese technology were
exported to other countries.
Talks with Turkey on the Altay tank broke down on that point
at the working level, officials in Japan told Reuters. Turkey
has hoped to export the Altay to other countries.
In a deal announced last month, India became the first
country to agree to buy military aircraft from Japan since the
war. Under the preliminary deal worth an estimated $1.65
billion, ShinMaywa Industries would supply amphibious
aircraft to India's military.
(Writing by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Neil Fullick)