Japan approves plan to sell fighter jets to other nations in latest break from pacifist principles

The Japanese Cabinet approved on Tuesday a plan for the sale of future fighter jets, which it is developing with Britain and Italy. This move marks the latest departure from Japan’s post-war pacifist values.

The controversial decision to allow international sales of arms is expected to secure Japan’s participation in the joint fighter-jet project. It also forms part of an effort to strengthen the Japanese arms industry, and its role in global safety.

The Cabinet approved a revision of Japan’s guidelines on the transfer of technology and arms to other countries.

Yoshimasa Haashi, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, said that changes were necessary due to Japan’s current security situation. However he stressed that Japan’s traditional pacifist values remain unchanged.

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Hayashi, a Tokyo-based reporter, told reporters that in order to obtain a fighter plane that is capable of meeting the required performance, and without jeopardizing Japan’s defense, it was necessary to export finished products to other countries than partners. Tokyo would also follow a strict approval procedure for jet sales. He said that “we have demonstrated clearly that we will adhere to our fundamental philosophy as a peace-loving nation.”

Japan, a pacifist country, has restricted its arms exports for many years. However, it has taken rapid steps to liberalize the market in response to rising tensions around the world, particularly from China.

First time in history, the decision to sell jets to Japan will allow it to export deadly weapons that it coproduces.

Japan, Italy and the U.K. are working together to develop a new advanced fighter jet that will replace the aging F-2 fighters designed by Americans and the Eurofighter Typhoons operated by the U.K.

In December 2022, Japan, which had been working on an indigenous design called F-X and was slated to deploy it in 2035, agreed to combine its efforts with the British-Italian Tempest program. for deployment in 2035. The Global Combat Air Program, or GCAP as it is known, is a joint project based in Britain.

Japan hopes that the new plane offers advanced capabilities Japan requires amid rising tensions in the area, giving it a competitive edge over regional rivals China or Russia.

A result of the destruction that followed World War II and its past as an aggressor, Japan adopted a Constitution that limits its military only to self-defense. Japan has long had a strict policy that limits transfers of military technology and equipment, and prohibits all exports.

Opponents criticize Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government for its commitment to the fighter-jet project without explaining to the public the reason for this major policy shift or seeking approval.

In order to address these concerns, the government has limited exports of lethal weapons co-developed with the jet, and promised that sales would not be made in wars currently being fought.

The government has also stated that for the moment, the revised guidelines only apply to the jets and will require cabinet approval. The list of potential purchasers will also be limited to 15 countries with which Japan has signed agreements on defense partnerships and equipment transfers.

Recent polls indicate that the public is divided about this plan.

In 2014, Japan started exporting some nonlethal supplies. And in its latest move, last December, the country approved a new change that allows it to sell 80 lethal weapons, components, and other items that it manufactures with licenses from foreign countries, back to their licensors. This change allowed Japan to sell Patriot missiles designed in the United States to the United States and replace the munitions Washington sends to Ukraine.

In its decision the Cabinet stated that the ban on exporting finished products of arms would hamper efforts to develop a new jet and limit Japan’s role to supporting the project. Italy and the U.K. want to sell the jet to offset development and manufacturing costs.

Kishida requested Cabinet approval prior to signing the GCAP agreement, but the delay was caused by the opposition of his junior coalition member, the Buddhist-backed Komeito Party.

Kishida plans a state visit to Washington in April, during which he will be expected to emphasize Japan’s willingness to play a larger role in partnerships with the military and defense industries.

Exports will also boost Japan’s Defense Industry, which has historically catered to only the Self Defense Force of the country, as Kishida aims to build up Japan’s military. The industry has struggled for customers despite its efforts over the last decade.