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2014年4月 4日 (金)


April 03, 2014
EDITORIAL: New arms export rules undermine Japan’s pacifism

Japan effectively lifted its ban on weapons exports with Cabinet approval April 1 of a new set of principles to replace the three that had held sway for nearly five decades.

In an apparent effort to blot out images of Japan being a “merchant of death,” the Abe administration named the new rules “three principles concerning transfer of defense equipment.”

But in reality the move represents a 180-degree shift in policy, from banning arms exports in principle to approving them if they meet certain conditions.

This shift has paved the way for Japan’s entry into the international weapons business.

The old principles constituted one of the main pillars of Japan’s postwar pacifism, which is based on the basic tenets of the Constitution. We have to say that the Abe administration's decision was rash to say the least.

The three new principles are as follows:

First, Japan cannot export weapons to countries that are violating international treaties or resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

Secondly, arms exports are allowed only in cases where the government has decided through strict examinations that they contribute to peace or Japan’s national security.

Thirdly, the government must make sure that weapons exported from Japan will not be used for purposes other than the original intent or transferred to third countries without Japan’s consent.

The preamble of the new rules says, “Japan cannot secure its peace and safety on its own, and the international community is expecting Japan to play an active role (in the area of security).”

This phrase indicates that the policy change is an embodiment of the “proactive pacifism” advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and reflects his defense policy agenda, which is behind his initiative to allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.

The government’s principal purpose in establishing the new rules lies in Japan’s participation in international joint projects to develop state-of-the-art weapons, which have been becoming increasingly more sophisticated and expensive.

The Abe administration has already approved exports of parts for the F-35 fighter jet, which has been developed jointly by nine countries, including the United States and Britain. Japan will deploy the stealth fighters and Japanese companies will manufacture parts for them. The government wants to promote Japan’s participation in such international weapons programs from the development phase in the future.

The Abe administration has been driven by its desire to cut costs for defense equipment and promote the development of the domestic defense industry. Some Japanese defense contractors have been complaining that the old rules hamper their efforts to develop cutting-edge weapon technologies and cause them to lose business opportunities.

But the self-imposed ban on arms exports is a policy Japan has maintained amid support from a majority of the public. It must not be abandoned simply to accommodate the logic of business.

Under the new rules, an export embargo is applied only to countries that are recognized by the U.N. Security Council as parties to conflict. This rule is a very weak measure and limited in its effectiveness to prevent questionable arms exports. The provision calling for disclosure of information about arms exports is too vague to be meaningful.

These problems with the new rules inevitably raise concerns that Japan's arms exports could create a situation that fuels international conflict while Japanese people are not aware of what is happening.

The Abe administration has also started considering using the government’s official development assistance for military purposes in a radical departure from the tradition of limiting such aid to civilian areas. This would be another major shift away from the nation’s postwar pacifist credo.

All these moves point a way toward making it possible for Japan to use its right to collective self-defense.

We can never accept these attempts to gradually erode the pacifist principles to which the nation has long been committed.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 3


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