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EDITORIAL | Japan Can Lead in Fighter Jet Making, Komeito Holds It Back

The Komeito Party opposes further easing curbs on lethal weapons exports. The UK says Japan needs to reassess this, considering its position in the world.



Italy's Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, Japan's Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, and the UK's Defense Minister Grant Shapps signed a treaty establishing an international organization for the joint development of the advanced fighter jet. December 14, 2023 Ichigaya, Tokyo. (©Sankei by Keita Ozawa)

Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy signed a treaty on December 14 to establish a joint organization for developing a next-generation fighter jet.

The treaty will be submitted to the regular session of the National Diet scheduled to convene on January 26. This is the first time that Japan is collaborating with allies other than the United States to develop a major piece of defense equipment. The new fighter jet, scheduled for deployment in 2035, will be the successor to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Mitsubishi F-2 fighter.

The trilateral organization overseeing the project will be headquartered in the UK and is expected to be established in 2025, with a Japanese citizen as the inaugural leader. Additionally, the three countries will form a joint venture, with an Italian citizen assuming a leadership role.

This collaborative project holds paramount significance for Japan's national defense. Both the UK and Italy are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In the future, the new fighter jet may be adopted by the air forces of NATO countries. It could even become an integral part of NATO's defense capability.

This means that Japan's active participation in manufacturing and improving the new fighter jet has the potential to forge stronger ties between the country and NATO — the world's largest military alliance. This will substantially enhance Japan's deterrent power and diplomatic influence.

A rendering of the next-generation fighter aircraft to be jointly developed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy. (Provided by the Ministry of Defense)

Impact on Japan's Security and Economy

It is anticipated that over 1,000 Japanese companies could be involved in development, including parts procurement. Nurturing specialized human resources and boosting the domestic defense industry would ultimately bolster Japan's overall economic strength.

The trilateral treaty underscores the importance of exporting the new fighter jet to other countries. Both the UK and Italy are planning such exports. The production of these fighter jets entails high costs, and exporting them has the potential to lower unit costs. Additionally, such exports would offer strategic benefits by strengthening security ties with the recipient nations.

However, the Komeito party of Japan's ruling coalition has put the brakes on further easing restrictions on lethal weapons exports. If this continues, Japan will fail to take the lead in the fighter jet's development, compromising national interests.


During a press conference after the signing of the treaty, UK Defense Minister Grant Shapps stated, "The risks and problems from Europe to Indo-Pacific are clear for all to see." Addressing Japan's reluctance to further ease export restrictions, Shapps suggested that it was time for Japan to reassess its policies, considering its position in the world.

The Japanese government has urged the ruling coalition to decide by the end of February whether to ease restrictions on exporting jointly developed defense equipment.

Exporting major defense equipment to friendly countries will expand Japan's network of allies and foster a favorable security environment. In light of this, Komeito must shift towards a realistic pacifist stance and support the relaxation of export restrictions.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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