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EDITORIAL | Export Limits on Defense Equipment Benefit Aggressors

It is an erroneous belief that the export of lethal defense equipment runs counter to Japan's ideals as a peace-loving nation.



Artist's conception of the next-generation fighter jet being jointly developed by Japan, the UK and Italy. (Courtesy of the Defense Agency.)

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito have agreed to make an exception and allow the export of next-generation fighter planes to third-party countries. It is currently being jointly developed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy

The Komeito went along with the plan after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida proposed strict rules for such exports. Exports of the next-generation fighter jets will only go to countries with which Japan has signed "defense equipment and technology transfer agreements." Moreover, those countries must not be currently involved in a military conflict. 

Furthermore, Cabinet approval will be required in each individual instance, after preliminary review by the ruling parties. 

Improving the Security Environment

Now the LDP and Komeito have reached an agreement. Next, the government will make a Cabinet decision on how to revise the operational guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer on Defense Equipment and Technology

We welcome the parties' approval of exporting next-generation fighters to third parties. Materializing this is necessary to create a favorable security and defense environment for Japan. 

The goal is to have the next-generation fighters deployed by 2035. As things now stand, Japan has transfer agreements with 15 nations. Many of these — including Australia, India, Singapore and Indonesia — are located in the Indo-Pacific region. 

If exports materialize, that will reduce unit costs for procurement. Meanwhile, it will serve to increase the number of like-minded countries in terms of security. It will also enhance deterrence vis-à-vis China and other countries inclined to change the status quo through the use of force. In these ways, the exports contribute to Japan's own defense. 

LDP Policy Research Chairman Tokai Watami (right) and Komeito Party Policy Research Chairman Yosuke Takagi in a press conference. This is just after their agreement on a policy to allow the export of next-generation fighter jets to third countries. March 15, at the Diet (© Kyodo)

Over-the-top Restrictions

Nonetheless, there are problems with this agreement between the ruling parties. There is an erroneous belief that the export of lethal defense equipment runs counter to Japan's ideals as a peace-loving nation. Therefore, the philosophy that such exports should be restrained to the greatest degree possible still remains. 

What if the need arises to export equipment jointly developed internationally other than the next-generation fighter? In such a case, the ruling parties would again have to consult before it can be added to the operational guidelines. 

To start with, the export ban should have been scrapped as a general principle. The issue is not just about making an exception for the next-generation fighter jets. If some countries become hesitant to engage in joint development with Japan because they are put off by complicated procedures, that will be detrimental to Japan's peace and national interest. 

Japanese media ask questions about the LDP-Komeito agreement to allow the export of next-generation fighter jets to third countries. March 15, at the Diet (© Kyodo)

Why Exclude the Countries Most in Need?

Limiting exports to nations not currently involved in a conflict is also questionable. Is the intent to forbid Japan from effectively extending a helping hand to nations that are being invaded and suffering the most? Whether or not to export should be decided on a case-by-case basis. 

What if Japan were to be invaded and no country was willing to provide us with lethal defense equipment? That would surely result in greater loss of life for both Self-Defense Force personnel and the general population. 

Moreover, just think how jubilant the invader Russia would be if the United States and Europe did not provide artillery, ammunition and other means for defending itself to Ukraine

It is the fallacy of hypocritical "pacifism" that out of hand criticizes defense equipment exports. Yet, preventing their export could also lead directly to such a lawless world. 

Rather, we need to do away with the five categories under the Three Principles on Transfer which unduly limit the scope of exports. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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