Defense officials from Japan and ASEAN states met in Okinawa on Tuesday. The two primary issues on their agenda were the use of Japanese defense equipment in disaster relief around the region and anti-terrorism. The talks between Japan and ASEAN tie into a broader trend in Tokyo’s foreign policy, initiated recently under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which liberalizes arms exports, long banned under Japanese law.
According to Global Post, Japanese and ASEAN officials agreed to expand cooperation in these areas, including in joint development of equipment that could be useful in combating natural disasters and terrorism.
According to Japan Daily Press, the meeting was chaired by Japan’s Administrative Vice Minister of Defense Masanori Nishi. Further, Prime Minister Abe noted overlap between ASEAN and Japanese interests: “We hope to deepen and enhance cooperation, as ASEAN countries are Japan’s partners that share basic values and strategic interests.”
The talks between Japan and ASEAN come against the backdrop of a domestic movement in Japan by Shinzo Abe and the LDP to revise Japan’s self-imposed ban on defense exports.
In 1967, Japan declared its Three Principles which barred weapon and non-offensive defense technology from being transferred to communist nations, countries subject to arms embargoes at the UN Security Council, and countries likely to be involved in international conflicts.
The prospect of broader cooperation between Japan and ASEAN on defense issues will likely cause some anxiety for observers in China. Several ASEAN countries currently dispute maritime territory with China and the potential acquisition of maritime patrol equipment or amphibious technology could prove advantageous for these countries.
The most advanced precedent for revised Japanese defense export guidelines is seen with India. Japan and India are likely to conclude a deal this year that would see the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious patrol aircraft sold to India.