Abe's New 'Three Principles on Arms Exports' Deserve Support

Feb 25 2014, 3:43am CST | by

Abe Shinzo’s government is dropping self-imposed restrictions on developing and making weapons for export. Should we be worried? More power to Abe and Japan’s weapons makers, I say. Why should General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, GE, McDonnell Douglas, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell, United Technologies, Northrop Grumann, Boeing, Oracle, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and the a few companies in Israel, the U.K., France and Germany get all the business?

Japan is a major buyer of mainly U.S.-made weapons and could become more so as it accedes to Pentagon pressure to increase “interoperability” between U.S. and Japanese forces. Big ticket purchases planned include Japan’s Air Self Defense Force (ASDF)’s acquisition of 28 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighters. The price per plane is currently around $160 million.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter is among the biggest arms programs in history. The Pentagon reportedly plans to spend $391.2 billion on 2,443 aircraft. Apart from the Pentagon’s own procurement, the plane will be sold to U.S. allies around the world, and many of these countries have joined in the plane’s development (as–to ensure U.S. congressional support– have Lockheed Martin contractors in 45 U.S. states).

Japanese defense contractors have rightfully insisted on supplying components for F-35s used by the ASDF. They have lobbied successfully for an exception to current policy to supply parts for F-35s outside Japan. The Ministry of Defense is strongly backing them, and not just for the F-35 program.

Japan’s defense industry has been held back in both efficiency and technological advance by self-imposed restrictions on joining in new weapons R&D projects conducted largely under U.S. auspices abroad. Such participation requires substantially amending, or simply nullifying, Japan’s “Three Principles on Arms Exports.”

The “Three Principles of Arms Exports” have been an official doctrine of Japan’s foreign and defense policy since being declared in a Diet session in 1967. The website of the Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers the following explanation (my italics):

Under the Three Principles, “arms” exports to the following countries or regions shall not be permitted:

(1) communist bloc countries,
(2) countries subject to “arms” exports embargo under the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, and
(3) countries involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts.

Subsequently, in February 1976, the Government of Japan announced the collateral policy guideline at the Diet session that the “arms” exports to other areas not included in the Three Principles will be also restrained in conformity with Japan’s position as a peace-loving nation. In other words, the collateral policy guideline declared that the Government of Japan shall not promote “arms” exports, regardless of the destinations.

Based on other relevant laws, the Government of Japan also deals with in a strict manner: (1) direct overseas investment for the purpose of manufacturing “arms” abroad, and (2) participation in the overseas construction projects of military facilities.

As part of its new National Security Strategy (NSS), Abe’s Cabinet has presented to its Liberal Democratic Party/New Komeito (LDP/NK) governing coalition a new set of “three principles.” Gone are the proscriptions against “communist bloc countries” and “countries involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts.” In their places are:  “countries supporting terrorism” and “countries violating international treaties.”

Against the previous effective blanket prohibition on arms exports, the new principles establish a “negative list” framework where, if an item’s export is not specifically prohibited, it is permitted.  Gone also are proscriptions on overseas investment and manufacturing.

The new principles stipulate that exports shall 1) not be allowed when they would “clearly interfere with the maintenance of international peace and security;” 2) be limited and strictly verified; 3) be limited to situations where strict controls can maintained against misuse and transfer to third countries.

There have been many exceptions granted under the current three principles. Last March the Abe Cabinet approved shipment of F-35 parts to Israel, heretofore considered one of the “countries involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts.”  The proscription against “communist bloc countries” is correctly deemed an irrelevant relic of the Cold War.

The new principles retain the second of the original: “countries subject to “arms” exports embargo under the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions.” This provision is understood to apply to countries that have refused to ratify treaties banning anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs. Exports to the United States, which has not ratified either treaty, are permitted under an exception policy adopted in 1983 under Prime Minister Nakasone.

As toward Abe’s push to reinterpret the constitution to allow “collective defense” (see my previous post), the New Komeito has misgivings about the “new three principles.” This proposal is not nearly as potentially dangerous and problematic as “collective defense.” Still, NK (to its great credit) demanding justification for any change in the pacifist policies and ideology that has prevailed in Japan since 1945.

Without or (very likely) without NK the “new three principles” are likely to be adopted by an official Cabinet order.

Who are Japan’s biggest defense contractors? A survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in 2013 listed the top ten in order as follows:  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Fujitsu, Toshiba, IHI, Komatsu, JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp, and Hitachi.

The CSIS survey points out that armaments making is for all these companies a small part of their revenues and manufacturing plant. Still, to remain competitive and on the cutting edge of technology, like it or not, engaging in R&D on and manufacturing modern armaments seems close to an imperative.

Abe is properly advancing Japan’s national interests and threatening no one by adopting a new “three principles of arms exports.” He deserves support.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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