TOKYO - Japanese defense minister Yasuo Ichikawa said on Dec. 24 that Tokyo plans to relax a decades-old ban on arms exports to allow Japanese firms to participate in multinational weapons development projects.
The decision, expected to be announced Dec. 27, is likely to stimulate the domestic arms industry while reducing the country's defense spending.
"We will build a new framework," Ichikawa told reporters, stressing the need for lifting the ban as the "cost of highly capable defense equipment has increased".
The self-imposed ban has been in effect since 1967, which critics say has resulted in Japan's military hardware becoming outdated, while rival China's military machine continues to grow and becomes increasingly assertive.
Japan's policy on arms exports is a subject of intense interest to foreign defense contractors, as it could pave the way for greater international cooperation on a host of weapons systems from missile defenses to fighter jets.
The ban has long been seen as an obsolete legacy of the cold war era, and Japanese political leaders have long debated whether and when to lift it.
Supporters of Japan's traditional pacifist positions have warned against such a move, while any attempts in the past by Tokyo to expand its military might have rankled regional powers like China.