Friday, June 20, 2014

Japan accelerates joint arms development with other nations

The Japanese Defense Ministry adopted its new strategy on military equipment on June 19 that calls for further collaboration with other nations in the procurement of weaponry and enhanced capability to monitor and defend the nation's outlying regions.

It marked the first time in 44 years that the ministry made changes to its basic policy on military equipment production and technology.

Set in 1970, the previous basic policy stipulated that the Self-Defense Forces use arms developed by Japanese companies to boost domestic defense contractors.

But a surge in weaponry development costs attributed to increasingly sophisticated ordnance technologies has led to a global trend of nations working together to develop and manufacture fighter aircraft and other advanced weapons.

For example, the United States and eight additional countries have been involved in joint efforts to develop the latest F-35 fighter since the 2000s. Japan was unable to participate in the project because of its three principles on arms exports.

“We are strongly concerned that our nation’s defense-related technologies could be left behind by overseas competitors if no steps are taken,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said June 19.

Earlier this year, the Abe administration relaxed the long-established principles on weaponry exports by replacing them with less strict ones that would enable Japanese companies to more easily join international development projects.

Based on the new government arms export principles finalized by the Abe Cabinet in April, the ministry’s new military equipment procurement strategy calls for more aggressive participation in international joint projects to develop and produce fighter aircraft and missiles.

The strategy states that participation in global projects will not only help reduce expenses, but “strengthen Japan’s alliances and friendships with other states by increasing mutual dependence.”

In the ministry’s plan, the United States, Britain, France, Australia, India, Southeast Asian countries and other friendly nations are named as potential partners to develop new military equipment and share arms technologies.

Another change in strategy urges Japan to boost its ability to monitor and defend the nation's outlying regions.

To counter threats from North Korea and China, the revised strategy says that Tokyo will enhance its patrol and surveillance capabilities by accelerating the development of drones and amphibious vehicles, areas where the SDF lags.

While Pyongyang has provoked a backlash from the international community for conducting a succession of missile and nuclear tests, Beijing has also created friction with its neighbors through its maritime expansion in the East and South China seas.

According to the new strategy, the ministry will compile a vision for the research and development of unmanned equipment, such as drones and robots, as early as the next fiscal year. Plans to promote the development of amphibious vehicles that would be used to defend remote islands are also included in the new basic policy.

By SHINOBU KONNO/ Staff Writer


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