The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 17 approved the nation's first national security strategy calling for revising a pillar of Japan's postwar pacifism and allowing for the export of weapons under the new principle of "a proactive pacifism."
The compilation of new standards is a major departure from the three principles of not exporting weapons except in rare cases, which date to 1967 and were further strengthened in 1976.
In addition, the number of SDF members and military equipment to allow them to carry out new duties will be greatly increased under new National Defense Program Guidelines approved on Dec. 17, with an eye on the recent military moves being made by China and North Korea.
The fundamental principle of the national security strategy is "a proactive pacifism based on the principle of international cooperation" and the strategy expresses strong concerns about China and North Korea.
Discussions with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's junior coalition partner, New Komeito, also led to inclusion of wording in the strategy that calls for "promoting an attitude of love for one's nation and hometown."
The new guidelines to be compiled for weapons exports will greatly relax the current restrictions and focus more on their strict control after they have been exported.
To better manage weapons manufactured through joint development, the strategy calls for establishing clear standards for prohibiting exports; limiting the cases in which weapons can be exported and strict oversight of such exports; and appropriate management regarding the usage of equipment for purposes other than originally intended as well as the transfer of such equipment to third-party nations.
The specific contents of the new guidelines will be hammered out through discussions within the ruling coalition. New Komeito has argued for a cautious weakening of the principles on weapons exports.
Joint development and manufacturing of weapons would allow Japan to restrain spending on defense equipment and strengthen the international competitiveness of its defense industry, which could help boost the nation's economy.
Along with the national security strategy, the Cabinet also approved new National Defense Program Guidelines and a new Mid-Term Defense Program to provide the defense personnel and hardware needed to implement the national security strategy.
The guidelines call for greater integration of the operations of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces. A new amphibious unit would be established that would be in charge of swiftly meeting any foreign invasion of outlying islands. The concept was put together with an eye toward China and its maritime advances as well as the festering territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Regarding North Korea, the guidelines call for strengthening the nation's ballistic missile defense system.
The military posturing by China and North Korea is also being used as justification for strengthening the SDF. Under the new National Defense Program Guidelines, the upper limit for GSDF members has been set at 159,000, 5,000 more than the previous guidelines, which were compiled when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. The Mid-Term Defense Program has set total defense spending over a five-year period at 24.67 trillion yen ($240 billion), an increase of about 1 trillion yen over the previous defense program.
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