Japan relaxes military exports

A JAPANESE ban on military-related exports that has been in place for the last 47 years is finally to be relaxed under new guidelines approved today, April 1, by the Japanese Cabinet.  The removal of the self-imposed restrictions, which have been in force since 1967, will enable Japan’s major defence contractors to compete more in the international market.

Japan will primarily export technology and equipment for rescue, transport, surveillance and mine-sweeping.  It will still not consider exporting combat equipment such as fighter aircraft and tanks.

However, under the new rules export of weapons or related technology will still only be approved when it serves international co-operation or Japan’s national security, according to Yosuke Isozaki, a special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  Isozaki said that each importing country’s intentions will be carefully examined before approval is granted to ensure exported equipment is not transferred to third parties without Japanese consent. He said that Japan’s policy of not allowing any exports that would encourage other countries’ conflicts will still remain unchanged.

One project that will benefit from the relaxation of the rules is India’s plan to acquire 15 ShinMaywa US-2 amphibians for the Indian Navy as search and rescue aircraft.  The possible acquisition of these aircraft has been under discussion for the last two-to-three years.  On May 29, 2013, India and Japan announced that they were to establish a Joint Working Group for co-operation on the US-2.  Because the US-2 is unarmed, ShinMaywa had for several years already been allowed to market the type overseas as a civilian aircraft, the US-2i (the i’ standing for international), thus getting round the ban on exporting military equipment.  The latest ruling should further ease acquisition of these aircraft, if plans go ahead.

The Indian Navy is intending to use the type for search and rescue, anti-surface warfare, maritime patrol and electronic intelligence.  India is looking to make an initial off-the-shelf’ purchase of a small number of aircraft and then assemble the remainder locally.  The Indian Air Force is also considering purchase of a similar number of these aircraft, while the Indian Coast Guard has also shown interest in the US-2i and would probably make purchases if an agreement is reached with Japan. Alan Warnes