Japan eyes shipping Patriot missiles to U.S. upon easing export rules

The Japanese government is considering exporting domestically made Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles to the United States, as it plans to relax its export rules on defense equipment later this week, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

Japan has currently limited the exports of U.S.-licensed defense products to components. The new rules, however, will not only allow parts but also completed products to be shipped at the request of a country where the manufacturing license originated.

The United States has shown interest in Japan's supply of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles, which are made under U.S. license, Hitoshi Kikawada, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's defense panel, told reporters after the LDP approved the draft revised arms export rules.

Japan has been opening up for arms exports under certain conditions, after removing in 2014 its arms embargo policy that was long seen symbolic to the country's pacifist stance under the war-renouncing Constitution.

Under the newly revised Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, to be endorsed on Friday, Japan will also become able to provide nonlethal defense equipment to nations under military invasions that violate international law, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Japan had to revise the guidelines of the arms export rules to supply Ukraine with bulletproof vests and helmets amid Russia's invasion, but such cases will no longer be exceptional in the latest revisions.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition of the LDP and the Komeito party has yet to agree on whether to lift restrictions on exports of internationally co-developed weapons to third nations, with Komeito, known for its dovish stance on security issues, cautious about the move.

The government has called on the LDP to come up with a conclusion on the issue by the end of February, given an ongoing plan to jointly develop a next-generation fighter jet with Britain and Italy by 2035.

© Kyodo News