Japan to start selling fighter jets in latest departure from pacifist ideals

Japan eyeing deal for advanced capabilities it needs against regional tensions against North Korea, China, and Russia

Arpan Rai
Tuesday 26 March 2024 10:31 GMT
FILE: Japan Jets scrambling to counter rising Russian incursions

Japan will soon sell advanced fighter jets to ally countries as it eases military equipment export restrictions in a move away from its pacifist principles and towards boosting defence readiness.

The overseas military sales plan includes the next-generation fighter jets Tokyo is jointly producing with Britain and Italy.

The sales of these Cabinet-approved jets will be limited to only 15 countries that have an existing defence equipment transfer agreement with Tokyo vowing to settle international disputes peacefully in accordance with the United Nations charter, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida’s administration said.

Any nation involved in conflicts will remain off limits from the fighter jet exports, the government said.

Japan, along with Italy and the UK, is working to develop an advanced fighter jet to replace its old fleet of American-designed F-2 fighters, and the Eurofighter Typhoons used by the UK and Italian militaries. The joint project, based in the UK, is called Global Combat Air Program or GCAP.

Expected to be deployed in 2035, the upcoming fighter jets are part of Japan’s merging effort with a British-Italian programme called the Tempest.

These international arms sales will boost Japan’s role in the joint fighter jet project with its western partners and also allow the Japanese arms industry to affirm its role in global security.

Japan is also eyeing the new plane deal for advanced capabilities it needs against regional tensions and rivalries with North Korea, as it looks for technological edge against China and Russia as well.

The Kishida cabinet has 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.

In December, the Japanese government made a separate export rule tweak to allow the transfer of defence equipment built under licence to the countries holding the designs, allowing Tokyo to ship Patriot air-defence missiles to the US. Japan can now also replace the munitions Washington is sending to Ukraine.

The latest move of defence bolstering comes ahead of Mr Kishida’s likely state visit to Washington next month where he is expected to speak of Japan’s position to step into a greater role in military and defence industry partnerships with other international players.

Mr Kishida’s defence policy changes have also created ripples in the Japanese parliament as the moves go against the country’s ethos where it still adheres to a war-renouncing constitution adopted after its defeat in the second World War.

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