TOKYO: Japan’s ruling party wants to loosen self-imposed rules banning arms exports in a bid to boost the country’s defense influence, a report said on Wednesday, a move that would mark a major shift from its pacifism and could irritate China.
A draft document that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants approved by his cabinet next month would allow Tokyo to supply weaponry to nations that sit along important sea lanes to help them fight piracy, Kyodo News said, an important step for a country like Japan which depends so heavily on mineral imports.
This would mean nations such as Indonesia, but could also include others around the South China Sea—through which fossil fuels pass—as such as the Philippines, for example, which has a territorial dispute with Beijing.
China and Japan are at loggerheads over the ownership of a string of islands in the East China Sea, while Beijing is also in dispute with several nations over territory in the South China Sea, which it claims almost entirely.
Beijing resists attempts to multi-lateralize its disputes, while Manila has sought to make common cause with other countries at odds with China.