Japan to stress its role as subcontractor to enable export of fighter jet parts

February 16, 2013


Japan will stress its position as a subcontractor in explaining why Japanese-made parts used in the F-35 stealth fighter jet can be exported without violating its own ban on weapons exports.

The government is working on a statement to be released in Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga's name explaining its stance that exports of F-35 parts do not violate Japan's weapons export ban.

According to sources, the statement will include wording that says, "Parts manufacturing will be based on U.S. technology and there will be no transfer of technology developed by Japan in the export" of the parts.

The Air Self-Defense Force also plans to purchase the Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 fighter jets.

The statement is set for release ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States on Feb. 21.

The F-35 Lightning II is to be jointly manufactured by Japan and the United States, with Japanese companies manufacturing some of the parts domestically.

However, questions have been raised about whether the parts export would violate the weapons export ban because Israel also plans to buy the F-35. The current government interpretation of the export ban includes criteria that prohibits weapon sales that could "exacerbate international conflicts."

Sources said officials were considering whether to state explicitly in the chief Cabinet secretary's statement that there was no problem in the export of the parts because as one high-ranking Defense Ministry official put it, the production in Japan would be in a subcontracting role.

That argument would allow the government to state that the parts export would come under the relaxed interpretation of the export ban made by the Noda administration in 2011, which allowed exports in cases of international joint development and production "where the contribution by Japan was relatively small."

However, problems may arise in keeping records of where parts manufactured in Japan are exported to. All parts used in the F-35 are scrupulously tracked by the U.S. government. It also provides the parts used in repairs made by the nations that will purchase the fighter jet.

The Abe administration will likely also have to explain whether all parts exports would be allowed as long as Japan was in a subcontracting role, even if such exports could "exacerbate international conflicts."

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The F-35 stealth fighter jet (Provided by Lockheed Martin Corp.)

The F-35 stealth fighter jet (Provided by Lockheed Martin Corp.)

  • The F-35 stealth fighter jet (Provided by Lockheed Martin Corp.)

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