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In light of calls for joint UK fighter project, Japan’s ruling party considers changing its military export laws

According to former defence minister Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s governing party is debating whether to relax export regulations for military hardware in part because, absent a change, Britain would be unable to sell any jet fighters that it jointly develops with Japan.


According to insiders, Japan and Britain plan to unite their next-generation Tempest and F-X fighter programmes by the end of the year. According to four other people familiar with the conversations, those negotiations are still on pace to result in a cooperative endeavour to field a plane in the middle of the 2030s.


According to Onodera, head of the Research Commission on National Security of the Liberal Democratic Party, ‘Japan could neither veto exports and neither could we insist that Japanese components be withdrawn, therefore we are discussing what we can do about that.’


In an effort to boost exports, Japan lifted its restriction on military exports in 2014. It hoped that the change would enable its armed forces to reduce procurement costs and grant domestic arms producers access to foreign markets, boosting profits and supporting the country’s defence industry.


Japan only permitted sales of non-lethal gear like surveillance and rescue equipment, so an export boom did not occur.


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