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In a shift reflecting growing security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan has relaxed its arms export restrictions to permit the shipment of domestically produced missiles and artillery, including to the United States. This move, the most significant policy change in nearly a decade, was announced alongside a record increase in defense spending for the coming year.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi emphasized the importance of this decision, stating, “This holds significant meaning in terms of further strengthening the Japan-US alliance. It will contribute not only to Japan’s security but also the peace and stability of the wider Indo-Pacific region.”


While the new measures still prohibit shipments to countries at war, they facilitate the US’s ability to provide additional military aid to Ukraine amidst its conflict with Russia. Concurrently, Japan’s cabinet approved a 16% increase in defense spending to 7.95 trillion yen ($56 billion).

Japan’s decision to expand its defense capacity and loosen arms export restrictions marks a significant departure from its long-standing post-World War II principle of self-defense and non-export of lethal weapons. The changes are motivated by concerns over China’s military expansion, North Korea’s missile launches, and the geopolitical implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under the revised guidelines, Japan can now export complete arms products to countries where the patent holders are located, with re-exports to third countries requiring Tokyo’s permission.


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