The United States‘ Defense Department’s chief weapons buyer is in Tokyo for the first time, in an effort to review Japan’s decades-old ban on overseas arms sales, and at the same time see how the local defense contractors can enter the international market once the guidelines have been set up. Frank Kendall, the under-secretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics met with several ministries to discuss these issues as well as develop closer ties in the defense aspect of the two nations.
Kendall met with officials from the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry and will also be paying a visit to the foreign affairs and defense ministries. The three ministries are the ones to determine what guidelines to set up on specific weapons and to whom these Japanese contractors can sell them. The weapons ban has left Japan’s defense contractors isolated and so the U.S. Defense Department wants to build deeper ties with government officials who will play a crucial role in bringing about changes that will allow companies like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (makers of the Zero fighter jet) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd (a submarine builder) to supply their parts and machines to the US.
The defense policy paper published by Japan last week seems to be pointing away from the direction of the Pacifist constitution, signalling that this administration will be seeking amendments to Article 9, a move that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not been shy to admit. The paper posits that it will “aggressively promote joint international development production with the United States, Britain and other countries”. This could result in lower defense spending for the government as these defense-equipment makers can expand their market, thereby lowering their costs. Japan’s defense spending has been at 1% of the GDP for decades, but the increase in maintenance costs has seen its procurement budget cut by a third in the past 20 years.
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