Japan relaxed its strict regulations on defense equipment transfers Friday in a bid to ramp up security ties with like-minded countries and foster related domestic industries through weapons and ammunition exports.

The first major change in Japan's weapons export system since 2014, when the country removed its arms embargo policy maintained under its war-renouncing Constitution, comes amid an increasingly severe security environment due to geopolitical tensions with China, Russia and North Korea.

Under the amended Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and their implementation guidelines, the government allows weapons made in Japan under foreign license, including completed products and components, to be shipped to the country that the licenser is based.

Following the revision, Japan decided to provide the United States with Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles produced domestically, licensed by U.S. firms.

The revision also enables the country to sell weapons parts provided the components by themselves are nonlethal, such as fighter jet engines, and supply defense equipment to countries defending themselves from invasions that violate international law, such as Ukraine.

But providing products co-developed with international partners to third countries has yet to be approved as Japan's ruling parties have failed to agree on the issue, causing uncertainty over a joint fighter jet development project with Britain and Italy.

Although Japan remains unable to export deadly weapons to countries where armed attacks have occurred, it could support Ukraine indirectly by supplying ammunition to Western nations that have been providing military assistance for Kyiv since the launch of Russia's invasion in February 2022.

The new Three Principles say that exporting defense equipment and technology is "a key policy instrument to ensure peace and stability, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, to deter unilateral changes to the status quo by force," and is essential for creating a "desirable security environment."

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters later in the day that there will be no fundamental change in Japan being a "peace-loving nation," adding that items will undergo "strict scrutiny" before being exported.

According to the Defense Ministry, the Japan Self-Defense Forces are equipped with 79 foreign licensed products, including 32 from the United States, and 47 from seven other nations.

Previously, Japan was only able to ship components of U.S.-licensed defense products. Now it can export not only components but also completed products at the request of whichever country the manufacturing license originates.

It was proposed such regulations be relaxed earlier this month by Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, the Komeito party.

The ruling parties will continue discussions on further rule revisions.

With Japan, Britain and Italy aiming to jointly develop a next-generation fighter jet by 2035, Kishida's administration has been trying to lift the ban on exporting co-developed products to other countries.

The parties are trying to reach a conclusion next year, although Komeito remains cautious about promoting weapons exports. The government has said it wants them to come to an agreement on the matter by the end of February.

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