TOKYO, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Japan is considering relaxing its restrictions on arms exports, a government source told Kyodo News.
The plans to ease the self-imposed restrictions on arms exports would allow such exports to some nations involved in international conflicts, marking a policy shift in Japan's "three principles" enacted in 1967, Kyodo said. These principles -- which do not allow arms deals with Communist countries, countries under United Nations sanctions or countries engaged in international conflicts -- were enacted in 1967 and later became a virtual ban on all exports.
The government believes the new guidelines to permit some exports would strengthen Japan's security ties with its allies, the source told Kyodo.
Critics warn the changes could affect Japan's post-World War II pacifist policy and lead to Japanese-made weapons and technology being used in global conflicts.
In 2011, Japan relaxed the rules to allow exports for humanitarian and peaceful purposes, and to make it easier to participate in joint development and production of weapons, Kyodo said.
In the latest developments, the source told Kyodo the government will seek to work out new guidelines on arms export controls and gain Cabinet approval next month after consultations with the ruling parties.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said during the weekend it would be detrimental to the nation's security if Japan cannot engage in joint development of defense equipment with other nations, Kyodo said. He said the government should allay concerns by stressing Japan will remain a peaceful nation.
The source told Kyodo the new guidelines will state that weapons exports will not be allowed where doing so would hinder efforts to maintain international peace and security. The guidelines will keep a clause blocking weapons transfer to countries facing U.N. embargoes or those violating international treaties.