武器輸出新原則 安全保障の観点を重視したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun March 13, 2014
New weapons export rules needed to clarify national security stance
武器輸出新原則 安全保障の観点を重視したい(3月13日付・読売社説)

In streamlining arms export rules, it is important to give serious consideration to how to respond to the new security environment surrounding Japan, taking into account changes in the times.

The government has presented to the ruling parties a draft on “three principles on transferring defense equipment” to replace the current three principles on arms exports. After gaining the consent of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the government aims to obtain Cabinet approval this month.

The contents of the current three principles became very complicated because the government has so far authorized as many as 21 exceptions by way of statements by chief cabinet secretaries and other measures after a de facto total ban on arms exports was adopted in 1976 by the cabinet of then Prime Minister Takeo Miki. It is appropriate to reorganize all the rules into easier-to-understand principles.

The government said it would change the name of the principles to “three principles on transferring defense equipment” to more accurately reflect reality. For instance, heavy machinery used in international cooperation activities by the Self-Defense Forces, and other things which may not appear to be a type of weapon, is subject to the arms export rules.

According to the draft, the government will continue to ban exports to countries engaged in conflict, as it will not allow exports to such countries if they may hinder international peace and security. On the other hand, it will allow exports after a strict screening process if the exports contribute to peace, international cooperation and Japan’s national security.

It also contains a policy that in very important cases, final decisions on exports will be made by the National Security Council, not the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, which basically oversees the rules.

It is quite significant that the draft clarifies the stance on national security in arms exports.

Arms exports, as well as their joint development and production, are not just trade. As a form of defense cooperation, they are extremely meaningful in the relations between the countries involved.

Important diplomatic tool

Japan has been promoting Japan-U.S. joint development and production of a ballistic missile defense system and the next-generation main fighter F-35 with the goal of strengthening the two nations’ alliance through sharing of state-of-the-art defense technologies.

Expansion of defense equipment cooperation with the United States, European countries and Australia, for instance, will ensure the peace and security of Japan itself.
It would also follow the policy of “proactive contribution to peace” advocated by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On some occasions, it may serve as an important diplomatic trump card.

For instance, there would be mutual advantages for Japan and the countries that become export destinations in such cases as Japan exporting anti-tank helicopter parts whose production has been discontinued in the United States or providing weapons to coastal countries along Japan’s sea lanes.

In light of the need to maintain domestic defense production and technology bases amid concerns over their decline due to continued defense budget cuts in recent years, excessive controls on arms exports should be relaxed.

In the draft, international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were added as export destinations. The new addition will enable Japan to respond swiftly in such cases as the one in December last year in which rifle ammunition was supplied to South Korean forces in South Sudan through the United Nations.

In cases of weapons transfers to third countries from export destinations, the draft obliges the countries that originally imported the equipment to obtain prior consent from Japan in principle. Naturally, strict export controls will be a requirement in determining such rules. However, they should be made practical to have a flexible framework that simplifies the process of issuing permission for a very small portion of weapons parts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 13, 2014)
(2014年3月13日01時22分  読売新聞)

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