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Pacific News Minute: Japan Begins Military Exports

Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr
Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr

This summer, as we mark the 70th Anniversary of the events that led up to the end of the Second World War, the Government of Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to loosen restrictions imposed in the Post War constitution on Military Operations and as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute on foreign military sales.

Ultra quiet diesel electric submarines to Australia… amphibious search and rescue planes to India... long range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft to Britain.  With the long-time ban on Military exports now lifted, companies like Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Hitachi, Toshiba and others hope to enter the lucrative market for weapons.  And while they may be best known as manufacturers of cars, motorcycles and consumer electronics, they've all had longtime sidelines in military contracts.  But as a report in the New York Times pointed out, up to now, they've only had one customer...the Japanese Self-defense forces.  So they've been unable to ramp up production to achieve economies of scale, and since Japan hasn't fought a war since 1945, they get no feedback on how well their products work on the battlefield.  And the work remains controversial in Japan.

At a Maritime Security Expo held in Yokohama earlier this year, the Times report noted that most of the products offered for export were subsystems, sensors, and communications devices...not in your face weapons.  Former defense minister Satoshi Morimoto told the Times "The government opened the door, but they are still very cautious. We still have a very peaceful mindset”.  But the government worries about military threats from North Korea and China, and hopes that Pacific neighbors who face those same threats might now become customers.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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