Japan to relax arms export ban

TOKYO: Japan has decided to relax its self-imposed ban on arms exports to allow more joint development and production of weapons with other nations, a report said Sunday.

The new measure would "enable shipments to countries with which Japan co-develops arms," said the Nikkei newspaper without citing sources.

"The move is aimed at reducing procurement costs and stimulating the domestic defence industry by promoting joint development and production of key arms, such as next-generation fighter jets, with the US and Europe," it said.

By taking a more active role in US or European military development programmes, Japan hopes to reduce the purchasing cost of major equipment such as jets, the Nikkei said.

Tokyo however would continue to prohibit arms exports to nations that are state sponsors of terrorism, violate the human rights of their citizens or lack sufficient controls over arms sales, the Nikkei said.

Japan currently bans almost all weapons exports, except for special cases such as those relating to the joint development of a missile defence system with the United States.

The report came as the world's second-largest economy is increasingly scaling up its military power and seeking a greater role on global and regional security issues.

Tokyo, which sees itself as a top target for nuclear-armed North Korea, has spent some 700 billion yen (7.1 billion dollars) on its own missile defence system, developed with the United States.

Japan deployed the system last month as a preventive measure after North Korea launched what Pyongyang called "a satellite". The United States, Seoul and Tokyo said it staged a disguised ballistic missile test.