TOKYO (AFP) ― Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has drawn up plans to overhaul the pacifist country’s self-imposed ban on arms exports, an official said Thursday, in a move that could anger China.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has delivered the blueprint to lawmakers in his party and coalition partner New Komeito, according to an LDP official, with the premier looking for a green light from cabinet by the end of the month.
The relaxed rules could allow Tokyo to supply weaponry to nations that sit along important sea lanes to help them fight piracy and also help resource-poor Japan, which depends on mineral imports.
Japanese arms could potentially be shipped to Indonesia as well as nations around the South China Sea ― through which fossil fuels pass ―such as the Philippines, for example, which has a territorial dispute with Beijing.
The move would boost Japan’s defense industry amid simmering regional tensions including a territorial row with China, and fears over an unpredictable North Korea.
Japan already supplies equipment to the Philippines’ coast guard, an organization that is increasingly on the front line in the nation’s territorial rows with Beijing.
Any move to bolster that support with more outright weapon supplies could irk China, which regularly accuses Abe of trying to remilitarize his country.
China and Japan are at loggerheads over the ownership of a string of islands in the East China Sea, while Beijing also has ongoing disputes with several nations over territory in the South China Sea, almost all of which it claims.
Under its 1967 ban, Japan does not sell arms to communist nations, countries to which the United Nations bans weapons sales and nations that might become involved in armed conflicts.
The rule has long enjoyed widespread public support as a symbol of Japan’s postwar pacifism.
But it has been widely seen as impractical among experts, because it stops Japan from joining international projects to jointly develop sophisticated military equipment, such as jets and missiles.