By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO, March 12 Japan plans to ease self-imposed
arms export curbs, ruling bloc lawmakers said on Wednesday, in
the first potential overhaul of arms export policy in half a
century likely to worry giant neighbour China.
The easing of export restrictions is part of Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe's plan to bolster Japan's military and strengthen
security ties with allies such as the United States.
Such a move is expected to reinvigorate Japan's defence
industry, which has been virtually excluded from the overseas
market, but will likely concern China and South Korea, where
bitter memories of Japan's past militarism run deep.
The restrictions have long made it difficult for Japanese
defence contractors such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
and Kawasaki Heavy Industries to keep abreast of
technological development and drive down costs.
Abe, who returned to power for a rare second term in
December 2012, raised Japan's defence budget for the first time
in 11 years, and aims to lift its ban on exercising the right of
collective self-defence, or aiding an ally under attack.
Besides exports deemed to promote global peace, transfers
overseas of Japanese defence equipment contributing to Japan's
security could be approved, Takeshi Iwaya, head of the Liberal
Democratic Party's (LDP) security panel, told reporters.
He was speaking after lawmakers from the LDP and junior
coalition partner New Komeito held a first meeting to discuss a
draft on the policy change.
Exports to countries that are directly involved in
international conflicts would remain banned, Iwaya said.
Japan drew up the "three principles" on arms exports in
1967, banning sales to countries with communist governments or
those involved in international conflicts or subject to United
But the rules over time became tantamount to a blanket ban
on exports - with some exceptions - and on the development and
production of weapons with countries other than the United
"By allowing only those exports that help improve safety of
our nation through strict screening, we can make our security
tighter," Iwaya said.
"We can also contribute to building up international peace
by transferring defence equipment as well."
Domestic media have reported that Abe's cabinet aims to
approve the new policy by the end of the month.