The government adopted new guidelines for defense equipment exports, at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, that will allow the country to transfer weapons overseas if conditions are met.
The new guidelines replaced Japan’s decades-old rule that had banned arms exports with only some exceptions, and thus represent a turning point in the nation’s security policy.
“Under the new guidelines, Japan will more actively contribute to peace and participate in international cooperation through the utilization of the country’s defense equipment,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.
In the preamble to the new guidelines, the government gave credit to the role played by the previous basic ban and said that defense equipment exports contribute to the promotion of international peace and security.
The guidelines say that arms and related technologies should not be exported when such moves look certain to hinder efforts to maintain international peace and security.
Cases in which arms exports are permitted will be limited, and strict examinations should be conducted before shipments are made, the guidelines say. The guidelines call on the government to ensure adequate information disclosure related to arms exports.
In addition, the guidelines specify, transfers of Japanese weapons and technologies to third countries after they are exported and their use for initially unintended purposes should be limited to cases in which appropriate management is secured. Recipient countries in such cases must obtain Japan’s prior consent.
Specifically, Japan will not export weapons to countries that violate international treaties signed by Tokyo, including the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Exports to countries in conflict, defined as those against which the U.N. Security Council has taken action—such as Iraq during the Gulf War—will be banned.
Meanwhile, exports will be permitted for joint projects to develop and produce defense equipment, with countries that cooperate on security with Japan, if Tokyo decides that such transfers will contribute to Japan’s security. The guidelines also allow supplies to international organizations such as the United Nations.
Also on Tuesday, Japan’s National Security Council adopted operational rules for the new guidelines.
For critical arms export deals requiring political decisions, the council’s four key members—the prime minister, chief cabinet secretary, defense minister and foreign minister—plus the trade minister will discuss whether to give approval. If the go-ahead is given, the chief cabinet secretary will announce the deals.
For other deals, the industry minister will report to the council annually, and public announcements will be made.