Japan Alters Arms Export Policy, Agrees to Transfer Patriot Missiles to the U.S.

Written by Henrik Rothen

Dec.22 - 2023 3:01 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Japan Alters Arms Export Policy, Agrees to Transfer Patriot Missiles to the U.S.

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Japan has recently amended its arms export laws, a move that marks a significant shift from its longstanding pacifist foreign policy.

This change was announced by the Japanese Foreign Ministry on December 22, allowing for the transfer of weapons, including sending Patriot missiles to the United States. This development opens the door for the U.S. to potentially replenish its stocks and consider sending some of its current supply to Ukraine.

The decision to send Patriot missiles to the U.S. is seen as a strategic move to help manage the U.S.'s inventory of Patriots, considering the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East. U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, highlighted the flexibility and strategic deployment this decision offers.

Despite the change in export rules, Japan still prohibits the direct export of weapons to countries currently engaged in war, which means it cannot send Patriot missiles directly to Ukraine. However, the transfer to the U.S. could indirectly support Ukraine's defense needs.

Ukraine has already demonstrated the effectiveness of Patriot missiles, which are among the most advanced air defense systems the country possesses. The first Patriot systems received by Ukraine in April 2023 have been successful in downing air-launched ballistic Kinzhal missiles, which Moscow has touted as "unstoppable hypersonic" weapons.

The U.S. will still require permission from the Japanese government to transfer these weapons abroad. According to The Wall Street Journal, Japan plans to send dozens of Patriot missiles to the U.S. as early as the beginning of 2024. The cost of these missiles, produced by Lockheed Martin at a rate of only 550 annually, runs into millions of dollars each.

Japan's commitment to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion has exceeded $7 billion, primarily in humanitarian aid. The provision of military aid has been limited to non-lethal equipment due to Japan's restrictions on weapons exports. This latest development in Japan's policy could have significant implications for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the global arms trade.