(Updates with details of statement in second paragraph.)
Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Japan said it would ease some restrictions on weapons exports to allow its companies to participate in international defense projects.
“We will participate with countries we already have cooperative relations with and when the joint project will contribute to our national security,” the government said in a statement distributed to reporters today.
The move will allow Japan to defend itself “by incorporating friendly nations’ technology,” Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Shuichi Sakurai told reporters in Tokyo after the announcement. Companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., IHI Corp. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which will be involved in Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, have called for easing the restrictions.
NATO countries and Australia could be possible export destinations for Japanese defense technologies, Sakurai said, without providing details.
The trade ministry will rule on each export case individually, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said in a briefing today. Japan awarded Lockheed a contract last week to supply the F-35, a deal Fujimura said is unrelated to today’s decision.
Lockheed has about 700 F-35 orders from overseas, and the U.S. contractor will build 42 of the planes for Japan, according to Japan’s defense ministry.
Japan has restricted weapons exports since the 1960s and 1970s, citing the nation’s pacifist constitution and the need to prevent Cold War enemies from obtaining arms.
--Editors: Patrick Harrington, Drew Gibson
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