TOKYO Japan and Britain are set to agree to begin joint development of arms following Tokyo's easing of its ban on exports of military equipment late last year, the Mainichi daily reported on Wednesday.
It will mark the first time that Japan has worked with a country other than the United States on military equipment after making an exception for the U.S. missile defense program.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his British counterpart David Cameron are expected to formally agree to begin talks when they meet on April 10 in Tokyo, the paper said.
The newspaper quoted an unidentified senior defense ministry official as saying that it could take the two countries about a year to decide on specific items for joint development as even with the relaxation of rules, Japan still imposes restrictions on sales to third parties.
The two countries may gradually start joint development with small military equipment, rather than big machines like fighters, it said, quoting an unidentified senior foreign ministry official.
Japan in December decided to relax its self-imposed decades-old ban to allow it to take part in the joint development and production of arms with other countries and to supply military equipment for humanitarian missions, opening new markets to its defense contractors.
Other countries such as Australia and France have also expressed interest in working with Japan on military equipment but Japan has prioritized its agreement with Britain after it chose Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jets over the Eurofighter Typhoon, made by a consortium of European companies including BAE Systems.
(Reporting by Rie Ishiguro; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)