Japan lifts ban on arms exports: Will help create a balance of power in the region.

Japan has lifted it decades old ban on arms export adopted as part of its pacifist constitution.
The decision replaced the self-imposed ban dating to the late 1960s with new, still-restrictive guidelines that permit the export of weapons only to allies and partners that agree not to sell them to third nations without Japanese approval. The new guidelines will also make it easier for Japan to join multinational development projects for expensive new weapons systems, like the American-led effort to build the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

In 1967, Japan adopted three principles of weapons sales which prohibited arms sales to Communist nations, countries under United Nations sanctions and countries in armed conflict, but it eventually grew into a blanket ban on all weapons exports.

Expectedly China has been prompt to criticize the move by Japan.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told at a press briefing.

Japan's policy changes in military and security areas have a direct bearing on the security environment and strategic stability of the region, as well as on the direction of Japan's future development,

"We hope the Japanese side can draw profound lessons from history and pay attention to the security concerns of its Asian neighbors," he said.

Hong also expressed hope that Japan can pursue a path of peaceful development and take other actions that are conducive to regional peace and stability.

China repeatedly invokes the WWII and the atrocities of Japan to criticize any move by Japan to enhance its own security. China has over the last few years aggressively pursued a policy of expansion of its own territorial claims across East and South China Seas. It has territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam, Philipines,Malaysia and basically claims vast majority of the resource rich South China Sea for itself. Every South East Asian nation is under a security threat from China.

The Chinese criticism of Japan based on its WWII history is nothing but to keep Japan pacifist while its own behavior has been far from exemplary.

The reason for China's anguish about the lifting of arms exports by Japan is obvious. It feels threatened by Japanesw sale of weapons to the South East Asian nations that are threatened by China which will inhibit its expansionist policies.

Ever since Shinzo Abe has become the PM of Japan, he has been aggressively pursuing better ties with SEA nations touring them and also developing defence ties with them. In recent months Cambodia sealed a defense deal with Japan and secured $135 million in infrastructure loans, Singapore expressed understanding for Abe’s efforts to boost his military, and Vietnam has warmed up to Japan.
Abe has pledged $20 billion in aid and investment for Asean nations over the next five years and is offering Japan’s military expertise as well. Asean defense officials agreed to cooperate to use Japanese defense equipment to help respond to natural disasters and anti-terrorism operations.

China's criticism of Japan's lifting of this arms exports ban comes at a time when China itself has been steadily increasing its arms sale. Recently China overtook France to become the worlds fourth largest arms exporter. What's to note is that three fourth of its arms sale are to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. All three are neighbors of India and China has actively aided Pakistan against India including proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology and using Pakistan to keep a check on India. China is now afraid that Japan will arm its adversaries in the South China Sea region.

Japan lifting its arms exports ban will mean that India will get the US2 seaplanes that India has expressed interest in. Beyond this, India can now explore opportunities to pursue joint ventures, co-development of weapons systems and also expand its options for other weapons imports. India can look at Japan's Soryu class of attack submarine with AIP for its project 75i of submarines. These subs are also under consideration by Australia to replace its Collin class submarines. This will further strengthen India's strategic relations with Japan which is also seeking to form a security alliance with India along with Australia.

Japan has take the right decision in its own self interests. It helps it seek a pie of the increasing global arms market. It helps expand its influence over the larger Indo-Pacific region which is under threat from Chinese hegemony and create a balance of power in the region.

About Yusuf Unjhawala

Editor, India Defence Analysis. Admin, ww.defenceforumindia.com/forum


  1. George Chakko 2 April, 2014 at 16:40

    Reply to Yusuf on Japan’s military export ban lift

    Great news! A most cheering one for Indian military high-tech! It is now apodictic and incumbent on Indian planners to exploit this and enter into long-term military tie-ups with Japan. Hitherto Japan was hindered by U.S. pressure and strong, internal political pacifism and inhibitions arising therefrom. But China’s power-play and historical tensions in Asia have changed all that.

    It is very much in Japan’s interests too, because India is now a supplementary and alternative source for rare-earths (REs) for Japan due to China’s dominance in this sector (95% of world RS production and supplies are from China as per Chinese sources) and a potential black-mail once exercised by China vis-à-vis Japan and others. China’s haughty, hegemonic RE play is now on the upcoming WTO rounds’ agenda.

    The defining event, though now history, was the following: Over 4 yrs. back China cut down drastically its REs exports to Japan by almost 50 per cent and more and threatened to increase the cut. [REs are extremely crucial to Japan’s high-tech electronic consumables’ production, automobile and heavy industries, cutting across a whole variety of industrial products including household appliances. Japan also exports high-speed chips in bulk quantities to the U.S. military almost to 70 percent of U.S. needs and REs play a vital role (Gallium, Indium etc.)] China apparently wanted to test and warn Japan of its vulnerability and put possibly pressure Japan to make political concessions. The strategy backfired but. As one late American-scientist friend of mine explained, Japan threatened to pull out and close all its high-tech manufacturing units in China that silently served China’s high-tech fabrication capability; licensed production was source of its know-how enhancement update. China withdrew immediately it’s RE export stop. Japan and the West learned a hard rude lesson though. Japan began its frantic search for alternatives sources in Australia, India, Canada and elsewhere. The U.S. started a crash programme to mine REs in its own soil, granting generous start-up funds for new RE mining companies, to steer clear of Chinese blackmail.

    In business it should always be 2-way traffic. India should demand Japanese companies to start vertically integrated foundries of advanced microelectronics in India, either as 100 per cent owned or on equity basis, to ensure quality control. India should also encourage private Indian enterprises to enter this defence field and not leave it just to government prerogative alone. That’s the only way to ensure quality improvement through competition and private initiative engagement. India would also need Japan’s R & D potential in defence research and product development at the governmental institutional level. One important condition: India should stand absolutely reliable guarantee for security know-how to ensure non-leak of any defence-related know-how to any other nation or entity, because of Chin-Pak collusion in defence data mining espionage.

    The potential for Indo-Jap collaboration is enormous, as India is weak in advanced microelectronics, a vital key for defence quality and India being a developing economy. She can learn an immense lot from Japanese quality discipline in product turnover. India has none of the problems historical or current, China and South Korea have with Japan. Additionally, we are Buddha’s homeland. Japan is not arrogant or haughty towards India, as the U.S. and Europe quite often tend to behave towards a brown race. Japan is a cultured Asian nation of the 21 st century. But that will not exculpate our deficit in hard discipline and orderliness Japan is not used to. We should prove to Japan that we are capable of strict discipline, orderliness and cleanliness* as inheritors of age-old yogic philosophy and practice. Japan and Germany top the world with their work discipline ethic. As long as we cannot muster that and put our house in order, no amount of collaboration will help.

    India should have the capability to refit an old imported aircraft, or naval ship with its own smart chips produced with Japanese help or custom-specific R & D collaboration. This way we can cut the defence spending down. In space and shipbuilding, military or otherwise, Japan’s help could be substantial. India can complement Japanese strategic help with augmented software services for Japanese industry, Ayurveda know-how sharing and research, yoga philosophy and practice and Indology research cooperation, in addition to a specified quantity of annual RE export. Culturally too I see a vast potential.

    George Chakko, Former UN-correspondent at the Vienna International Centre (UN), Vienna, Austria. April 2, 2014 13.00 hours CET

    *One American semi-conductor physicist hired in 1978 as a consultant by UNIDO for India told me decades ago that during his visit to a semi-conductor outfit in India he had to ask embarrassingly the lab chief as to what a spider was doing on the walls of a semi-conductor cleanroom!

  2. soumik pyne 5 April, 2014 at 08:40

    Great news!
    This opening up of japan’s defence industry has great possibilities for india, for starters we should send out feelers to the japanese for any possibility of acquiring soryu class SSK’s for the IN, where we have the possibility of gaining what is arguably the best SSK in Asian waters they have the possibility of acquiring economies of scale that will help them to reduce their own cost.Also an izumo or a hyuga can be a great LHD for the IN.

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