Japan to loosen ban on arms exports
Tokyo - The Japanese government decided on Tuesday to relax its ban on arms exports to enable international collaboration in producing weapons, media reports said.
The decision came against a background of rising Chinese military power and the threat from North Korea, a nuclear power.
The new rules would enable Japan to jointly develop and manufacture weapons with other countries, Kyodo News reported. They will also allow Japan to supply equipment for humanitarian purposes.
Japan will still be "cautious" in cases which do not come under these exceptions to the ban, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.
The Security Council of Japan, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, took the decision to relax the ban.
Japan has applied three principles to arms exports since the 1960s: no sales to communist countries; no weapons for states involved in international conflicts; and no arms exports to countries subject to United Nations embargoes.
Those rules led to a virtual ban since the 1970s and prevented Japanese companies from developing arms with foreign manufacturers other than some cooperation with the United States, Tokyo's most important ally.
Japanese companies will now be able to jointly develop and produce weapons with other friendly countries. The cost of modern weapons systems means that increasingly their design and production are multinational cooperative efforts.
Critics say they fear the change could damage Japan's post-war pacifist image.
Japan would stick to its pacifist principles and not fuel international wars, Fujimura said.