The government and ruling parties are working on new principles on arms exports that would allow the Japanese defense industry to export weapons to international organizations, according to government and ruling party sources.
The new principles are being drafted to replace the current "three principles on arms exports," which virtually prohibit Japan from exporting any weapons.
The sources said that the new principles will allow Japan to export arms to international organizations such as UN peacekeeping operations, and will also permit the nation's defense industry to export parts and components for arms production with appropriate licenses.
The drafters are also considering the creation of a system to have arms exports approved by a meeting of four major ministers at the National Security Council.
The creation of new rules governing arms exports was incorporated into the government's national security strategy unveiled last year as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy concept of a "proactive contribution to peace." Ruling parties have been discussing the issue, and the government intends to endorse the new rules at a Cabinet meeting as early as March.
The current three principles prohibit Japan from exporting arms to countries in the communist bloc, countries to which arms exports are banned by UN resolutions and countries involved in conflicts.
At a Budget Committee meeting in the House of Representatives Thursday, Abe said that the government has allowed 21 cases of arms exports to date as exceptions to the principles in the statements by chief cabinet secretaries.
The prime minister said the government will carefully study how those exceptions were made as a part of creating the new principles.
Abe's remark means that the government and ruling parties are making the new principles to allow arms exports in a comprehensive manner, not merely as exceptions.
Under the current three principles and related standards, arms exports are allowed under two conditions-"contribution to peace and international cooperation" and "international joint development and production of arms."
Under the "contribution to peace and international cooperation" rubric, arms exports are permitted to countries, but not to international organizations.
In December, a unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force that participated in the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, provided South Korean forces with ammunition at the request of both the United Nations and the South Korean forces. Following this, the government intends to allow arms exports also to international organizations related to UN peacekeeping activities.
In the category of joint development, the current three principles and related standards impose the condition that parts and technologies may not be exported to countries beyond those involved in development and manufacture without prior consent from Japan.
But in March 2013, exports of parts and technologies for F-35 fighter jets, Japan's next mainstay fighter, were treated as an exception in the statement of the chief cabinet secretary, which said it is necessary for Japan to participate in a system that accommodates all the countries that have F-35 fighter jets.
Similarly to this exception for F-35 fighter jets, cases in which the United States and other countries involved in "joint development and production" strictly manage the transfer of parts and technologies, exports by those other countries of parts made in Japan to related countries, would not require prior consent from Japan.
In cases where parts are produced by a Japanese firm under license from a US development company, the new principles would allow exports to foreign countries that use the same licensed parts. This provision is aimed at addressing a case in which such a US development company ceased production of needed parts.