The United States is currently pursuing a supply of TNT from Japan, intended for use in 155mm artillery shells for Ukraine.
Japanese laws usually prevent selling weapons to other countries, making supplying Ukraine with specific artillery shells tricky. But insiders suggest a possible solution lies in the fact that exporting dual-use items—those with both civilian and military uses—is not as strictly regulated as purely military ones.
According to anonymous sources cited by Reuters, the United States has found a legal and diplomatic avenue to procure explosives from Japan. During a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Japanese government reportedly agreed to permit the sale of industrial TNT, which does not fall under the category of exclusively military-use products. The U.S. aim is to incorporate a Japanese company into the supply chain, providing TNT for U.S. military munitions plants tasked with assembling the 155mm shells.
However, the Japanese government remains tight-lipped about the specifics of this arrangement. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Economy of Japan has neither confirmed nor denied any requests from Japanese companies seeking to export TNT. In a statement, the ministry highlighted that non-military goods would be subject to regular export rules, considering factors such as the buyer’s intent and potential implications for international security. The Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency of the Japanese defense ministry declined to comment on the issue.
The U.S. state department, while not directly addressing questions about plans to buy TNT from Japan, emphasized its ongoing collaborative efforts with allies and partners to provide Ukraine the support needed for its defense. Japan, the department added, has shown considerable leadership in aiding Ukraine’s defense efforts. The Japanese government has already enforced sanctions on Russia and provided non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including body armor and food supplies. In addition, during a recent G7 leaders summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to donate vehicles to Ukraine, reflecting concerns that a Russian victory could embolden China and potentially escalate regional tensions.
Despite Japan’s position, there is growing acceptance within the country regarding providing military aid to Ukraine. However, the extent of this assistance, mainly when it involves lethal aid, remains a subject of debate. The U.S., in its efforts to bolster Ukraine’s defense, has sought help from numerous allies, including South Korea, although the latter has reiterated its stance against providing lethal aid.