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Japan OKs plan to export fighter jets in break from pacifist principles


TOKYO: Japan‘s cabinet on Tuesday approved a plan to sell future next-generation fighter jets that it’s developing with Britain and Italy to other countries, in the latest move away from the country’s postwar pacifist principles. The contentious decision to allow international arms sales is expected to help secure Japan’s role in the joint fighter jet project and part of a move to build up the Japanese arms industry and bolster its role in global security.
The cabinet also endorsed a revision to Japan’s arms equipment and technology transfer guidelines to allow co-produced lethal weapons to be sold to countries other than the partners. Chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said the changes are necessary given Japan’s security environment, but stressed that Japan’s pacifist principles remain unchanged. “In order to achieve a fighter aircraft that meets the necessary performance and to avoid jeopardising the defence of Japan, it is necessary to transfer finished products from Japan to countries other than partner countries,” Hayashi said, adding that Tokyo will follow a strict approval process for jet sales. Japan has long restricted arms exports under the country’s pacifist constitution, but has rapidly taken steps to deregulate amid rising regional and global tensions, especially from nearby China.
Japan is working with Italy and the UK to develop an advanced fighter jet to replace its aging fleet of American-designed F-2 fighters, and the Eurofighter Typhoons used by the UK and Italian militaries. Japan, which was previously working on a homegrown design to be called the F-X, agreed in Dec 2022 to merge its effort with a British-Italian programme for deployment in 2035.
Opponents have criticised PM Fumio Kishida’s govt for committing to the fighter jet project without providing an explanation to the public or seeking approval for the policy change. To address such concerns, the govt is limiting exports of co-developed lethal weapons to the jet for now, and has promised that no sales will be made for use in active wars. Potential purchasers will be also limited to the 15 nations that Japan has signed defence deal with.

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