TOKYO (AP) — Japan relaxed a decades-old ban on military-related exports on Tuesday in a bid to expand joint arms development with allies and equipment sales to Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
The new guidelines endorsed by the Cabinet are part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to bolster national security amid China's military expansion and North Korea's nuclear threat.
Abe has said Japan needs to play a larger role in international peacekeeping and defense cooperation. His government is pushing to allow Japan to defend allies, such as the U.S., if they are under attack, by re-interpreting the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's Constitution.
The new export guidelines pave the way for Japan to join arms technology development with the U.S. and other allies including Britain, France and Australia and acquire more advanced defense capabilities and equipment, said Nobushige Takamizawa, deputy chief of a recently created National Security Secretariat.
He said Japanese contractors could also gain access to technology and enhance their competitiveness.
The move, which reverses Japan's nearly half century-old self-imposed restrictions on weapons-related exports, could escalate tensions with China and South Korea.
Yosuke Isozaki, a special adviser to Abe, said weapons or related technology exports would be allowed only when they serve international cooperation or Japan's national security. He said Japan will carefully scrutinize the importing country's intentions and ensure that the exports are not transferred to third parties without Japan's consent.
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