Arms export is important in term of self-defense
Japan, Germany and France competed in bidding for Australia’s next-generation submarine development plan. The Australian government decided to conduct a joint development on the submarine with French companies. This recent business competition was the first large-scale commercial deal since the change of Japan’s arms export policy by the Abe Cabinet.
Initially Japan was considered to be in advantage, so the result was even more shocking to those involved in Japan.
Japan not selected for development of Australian submarines
There are various reasons pointed out regarding the failure to capture the deal. The biggest reason seems to be that then-Prime Minister Tony Abbot who favored Japan was replaced by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
In international diplomacy, it is important to cultivate and maintain relationship with not only pro-Japan politicians but also other political forces in a foreign country. This is a cardinal rule of diplomacy not just limited to arms export, but the Japanese diplomacy is lagging behind in this respect.
The condition of Japan’s domestic politics negatively impacted on the negotiation as well. Unlike ordinary civilian goods, in case of weapons, long-term maintenance including parts replacement and overhaul which covers entire service life cycle is indispensable.
Japan’s House of Representatives election system is based on the single-seat constituency system, and a minor change in voting can lead to changes of government. However, although the Democratic Party (Minshinto) is expected to be an only alternative to the Liberal Democratic Party as a possible ruling party, the party’s policy ideal and basic policies including defense policy are unclear. It would be natural for a foreign country to hesitate to procure from Japan weapons for preservation of its own security which require long-term maintenance.
Another disadvantage of Japan is the fact that performance evaluation of Japan-made weapons is not well-established. The Disarmament Yearbook published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute contains arms export statistics which include amount of export of Japan-made arms. However, those weapons listed are hunting guns, not arms or weapons.
For many years, Japan maintained the three principles of arms export and new three principles and as the result it has had virtually no weapons export. In other words, unlike other civilian goods, Japan has no track record in arms export.
Furthermore, there have been complaints that Japan-made weapons with which Japan Self-Defense Forces are equipped “show high performance in testing facilities but are prone to malfunctions under severe conditions of the United Nations peace keeling operations (PKOs).”
The main purpose of arms export is not economic stimulus measures which supplement depressed domestic demand. Some people view arms export emotionally and argue saying, “We don’t have to sell murder weapons. There are many other merchandises we can sell.”
However, arms export has many roles. It is well known that Japan’s weapons manufacturing companies have been suffering discontinuation of business and downsizing of manufacturing equipment in increasing number due to reduction of the defense spending for many years.
This signifies potential deterioration of defense capabilities. Under such conditions, even if Japan tries to strengthen its defense capabilities in response to contingencies, it cannot be done in time.
For “comprehensive security”
Selling arms to another country is a sign of friendship. Declining to sell arms indicates suspicions toward a potential buyer. Russia exports to India weapons whose performance is equivalent to those used by its own military forces, but export to China weapons with inferior performance.
“Comprehensive security” means that a country utilizes various capabilities it possesses.