Japan has lifted it decades old ban on arms export adopted as part of its pacifist constitution.
The decision replaced the self-imposed ban dating to the late 1960s with new, still-restrictive guidelines that permit the export of weapons only to allies and partners that agree not to sell them to third nations without Japanese approval. The new guidelines will also make it easier for Japan to join multinational development projects for expensive new weapons systems, like the American-led effort to build the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

In 1967, Japan adopted three principles of weapons sales which prohibited arms sales to Communist nations, countries under United Nations sanctions and countries in armed conflict, but it eventually grew into a blanket ban on all weapons exports.

Expectedly China has been prompt to criticize the move by Japan.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told at a press briefing.

Japan’s policy changes in military and security areas have a direct bearing on the security environment and strategic stability of the region, as well as on the direction of Japan’s future development,

“We hope the Japanese side can draw profound lessons from history and pay attention to the security concerns of its Asian neighbors,” he said.

Hong also expressed hope that Japan can pursue a path of peaceful development and take other actions that are conducive to regional peace and stability.

China repeatedly invokes the WWII and the atrocities of Japan to criticize any move by Japan to enhance its own security. China has over the last few years aggressively pursued a policy of expansion of its own territorial claims across East and South China Seas. It has territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam, Philipines,Malaysia and basically claims vast majority of the resource rich South China Sea for itself. Every South East Asian nation is under a security threat from China.

The Chinese criticism of Japan based on its WWII history is nothing but to keep Japan pacifist while its own behavior has been far from exemplary.

The reason for China’s anguish about the lifting of arms exports by Japan is obvious. It feels threatened by Japanesw sale of weapons to the South East Asian nations that are threatened by China which will inhibit its expansionist policies.

Ever since Shinzo Abe has become the PM of Japan, he has been aggressively pursuing better ties with SEA nations touring them and also developing defence ties with them. In recent months Cambodia sealed a defense deal with Japan and secured $135 million in infrastructure loans, Singapore expressed understanding for Abe’s efforts to boost his military, and Vietnam has warmed up to Japan.
Abe has pledged $20 billion in aid and investment for Asean nations over the next five years and is offering Japan’s military expertise as well. Asean defense officials agreed to cooperate to use Japanese defense equipment to help respond to natural disasters and anti-terrorism operations.

China’s criticism of Japan’s lifting of this arms exports ban comes at a time when China itself has been steadily increasing its arms sale. Recently China overtook France to become the worlds fourth largest arms exporter. What’s to note is that three fourth of its arms sale are to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. All three are neighbors of India and China has actively aided Pakistan against India including proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology and using Pakistan to keep a check on India. China is now afraid that Japan will arm its adversaries in the South China Sea region.

Japan lifting its arms exports ban will mean that India will get the US2 seaplanes that India has expressed interest in. Beyond this, India can now explore opportunities to pursue joint ventures, co-development of weapons systems and also expand its options for other weapons imports. India can look at Japan’s Soryu class of attack submarine with AIP for its project 75i of submarines. These subs are also under consideration by Australia to replace its Collin class submarines. This will further strengthen India’s strategic relations with Japan which is also seeking to form a security alliance with India along with Australia.

Japan has take the right decision in its own self interests. It helps it seek a pie of the increasing global arms market. It helps expand its influence over the larger Indo-Pacific region which is under threat from Chinese hegemony and create a balance of power in the region.

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