F35部品輸出 一層の3原則緩和も検討せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 4, 2013)
Export of F-35 parts a chance to relax arms export ban
F35部品輸出 一層の3原則緩和も検討せよ(3月3日付・読売社説)

We praise the government's decision regarding the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jet, as it will not only reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance but also maintain and grow Japan's foundation for the production and technology of defense equipment.

The government decided Friday to exclude Japanese-made parts for the F-35, which will be the next mainstay fighter for the Air Self-Defense Force, from its ban on arms exports. Several countries, including Japan, are working with the United States on production of the F-35.

The F-35 is a state-of-the-art fighter jet with stealth capability that makes the plane less detectable by radar.

The Defense Ministry will introduce a total of 42 F-35s, starting this fiscal year. Three domestic companies will manufacture their bodies, engines and other parts.

The introduction of F-35s is extremely important in terms of air defense because the international environment around Japan is deteriorating due to such factors as China's arms buildup and the nuclear threat from North Korea. We expect the government to proceed with their introduction as scheduled.


Boon for defense industry

The participation of Japanese firms in the production of the F-35 will allow them to acquire advanced technology and experience concerning a fighter jet. It will also enable the Japanese firms to maintain and repair the F-35s in Japan to improve their operating rate.

Furthermore, it will raise the level of the Japanese aircraft industry and enhance defense technology cooperation between Japan and the United States.

This has significant meaning for the Japanese defense industry.

Next fiscal year's defense budget will see the first increase in 11 years. However, many defense-related companies have already gone bankrupt or withdrawn from the industry due to the decline in defense spending that continued for 10 consecutive years.

The weakening of the domestic foundation for production and technology of defense equipment may shake the nation's security.

A new logistic system, in which countries concerned mutually supply parts to reduce costs, was adopted for the joint production of the new fighter jet. Under the system, however, Japan-made parts could be transferred to Israel. This has caused concerns regarding compliance with Japan's three principles on arms exports, aimed at "avoiding any possible aggravation of international conflicts.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a statement released by the government that the export of Japanese parts is approved on condition that exports are limited to countries that comply with the mission and principles of the U.N. Charter and that the United States administer strict export controls within the logistic system.

For instance, the export of Japanese parts will not be approved to countries under sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council. We think this is a reasonable judgment.


Japan caught in own trap

The statement avoids using expressions related to an "international conflict," which has various meanings. In addition to an invasive military action, it could also mean a fight against terrorism or self-defense.

With just a few exceptions, Japan has banned arms exports, being caught in its own trap by the ambiguous concept that the nation aims to avoid "any possible aggravation of international conflicts."

This has caused a vicious cycle in which domestically made weapons have become expensive and weighed on the defense budget, thereby delaying the introduction of advanced equipment to the Self-Defense Forces and debilitating the domestic defense industry.

Some members of the government have used the government's approval for the export of F-35 parts to call for a review of the three principles on arms exports.

We hope the government will give priority to the question of what is really significant for the safety of Japan, and study further relaxation of the three principles on arms exports, with certain brakes still applied.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, 2013)
(2013年3月3日01時48分  読売新聞)

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