On his maiden overseas trip, Japan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is expected to sign an agreement allowing his government to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam.
The likely move, which was reported by Nikkei Asia on October 14, is intended to stiffen the military capabilities of Southeast Asian partners who share Tokyo’s concerns about China’s growing maritime power. Suga will sign the deal on his upcoming state visit to Vietnam, part of a tour that will also take him to Indonesia, another important Japanese partner in Southeast Asia.
In 2014, Abe ended a decades-long ban on the export of weapons and military hardware, a move aimed at helping Japan assume a larger regional security role in the face of China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region. The export ban, instituted in 1967, was one of the most visible pillars of Japan’s pacifist postwar foreign policy, along with its pacifist constitution, which Abe tried (but failed) to amend.
Since the lifting of the ban, Japan has struggled to find markets for its defense equipment. The only sale for a finished product has been a deal that it signed with the Philippines in August to export a warning and control radar system developed by Mitsubishi Electric. According to the Nikkei report, Suga’s government is also in negotiations with Indonesia and Thailand over possible defense equipment transfers.