Japan is set to allow exports of missile interceptors it is developing jointly with the United States, Kyodo news agency said, relaxing its ban on arms exports.
Europe is considered a likely destination for the ship-based Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, said Kyodo, citing unnamed sources close to Japan-US relations.
The advanced missile defence system is key to US plans to be able to defend all of NATO’s European territory from a perceived Iranian ballistic-missile threat, reports Reuters.
Separately, the Yomiuri newspaper said an advisory panel to Prime Minister Naoto Kan will call for relaxation of Japan’s weapons export ban in a report next month.
Japan has banned arms sales since 1967 to countries with communist governments or that are involved in international conflicts or subject to United Nations sanctions.
The rules have meant virtually a blanket ban on arms exports and the development or production of weapons with countries other than the United States, hurting the competitiveness of defence contractors such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s largest business lobby, has called for an easing of the restriction, which has prohibited the country’s defence industry from joining multinational projects such as Lockheed Martin-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.