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EDITORIAL | Komeito Blocking Defense Exports Undermines Peace in New Era

Komeito has agreed to the joint Japan-UK-Italy fighter jet development program, so why is it stonewalling a change to allow sales of the jets to other partners?



LDP Policy Research Council chairman Kisaburo Tokai (right) holds discussions at the Diet with Komeito policy chief Yosuke Takagi on the issue of defense equipment exports to third countries. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

In February the Japanese government had hoped to decide on lifting the ban on defense equipment exports to third countries in some circumstances. Specifically, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito, partners in the ruling coalition, were to hold talks on the export of defense equipment produced as part of international joint development projects. Leaders of the ruling parties ended up postponing that decision, however. 

Behind Komeito's Indecision

The main reason for the delay has been the cautious stance adopted by Komeito. It says it judges the government side's explanation of the issue as inadequate. 

Simply put, export to third countries of defense equipment developed with international partners, regardless of whether that equipment is of lethal or non-lethal use, contributes to the defense of Japan. Komeito's failure to understand that fact is the problem. The delay in coming to a decision is unfortunate. Komeito should change its stance and agree as soon as possible. 

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)

'Peace' Prized By Komeito Depends on Partnerships

Regrettably, Komeito remains held in thrall to the remnants of the unrealistic ideology of "one country pacifism." This philosophy essentially holds that all is well and good if Japan is defended and at peace. However, it hinders efforts to ensure peace by working with our American ally and other like-minded countries to enhance deterrence. It might even be described as a type of anti-pacifism that could expose today's Japan to war and other risks. 

Komeito claims to be the "party of peace" and we believe it is indeed sincere in its desire for peace. It showed that by its approval of the international project for next-generation fighter development. That project is being carried out in concert with the United Kingdom and Italy

Therefore, Komeito should understand the significance of exports to third countries. Clinging instead to its earlier cautious stance is the wrong approach for achieving peace. If it wants to remain a responsible ruling party, it must realize that we have entered an era in which "proactive pacifism" will be necessary in the pursuit of peace. 

Refusing to allow Japan to export the next-generation fighter jets being jointly developed with the UK and Italy will greatly reduce the scope for recovery of the trillions of yen in development costs. The resulting increased costs will also create problems for our two partners. 

LDP Policy Research Council chairman Kisaburo Tokai (back right) and Komeito policy chief Yosuke Takagi (back left) hold discussions on the issue of defense equipment export to third countries on February 28 at the Diet. (©Kyodo)

Expanding the Circle of Like-Minded Countries

Japan hopes to export the new aircraft to nations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere which are enjoying rapid economic growth. There is also concern that if Japan puts off involvement, it will be difficult for the UK and Italy alone to cover the full costs. Moreover, Southeast Asian countries could adopt fighter jets made in China and Russia instead. That could in turn bring the region closer to China and Russia. 

Japan should be able to export fighter jets and other critical military equipment to friendly nations ー that is, those countries that share our respect for the rule of law and our basic perspective regarding values. Doing so would serve to raise our status as a like-minded country. 


The goal is to see democratic countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere added to a circle of countries committed to enhancing deterrence to oppose hegemonic and autocratic powers. Achieving that would also contribute significantly to the improvement of Japan's own security environment. 

Lifting the ban on exports of defense equipment to third countries should be viewed from this broad perspective. Komeito should clearly see that agreeing to lift the ban is the correct path to achieving its goal of pacifism. By doing so, they will achieve a pacifism that is both proactive and realistic. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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