Japan’s offer to give used military trucks to ASEAN countries indicates its plan to expand arms exports past the levels that have been in place for nearly 70 years, Chinese experts warned. This could lead to unpredictable turbulence and regional animosity.
Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asian Review reported on Feb. 19 that the country may donate secondhand transport vehicles from its Ground Self Defense Force to ASEAN countries. Japan could begin dialogues with potential recipients -- such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia -- as early as this summer.
Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said on a CCTV4 program on Feb. 21 that the move is just one small step in a larger plan.
“The export of secondhand, low-end equipment paves the way for the export of brand new and more powerful arms. Exported items may grow to encompass those for sea battles, and the recipient list will likely grow longer. Rather than starting out with heavy weapons, it’s easier to start exportation on a smaller scale,” Yang said.
“For decades, Japan has observed the "Three Principles" of not exporting arms, due to post-World War II treaties. But since the ban was lifted, Japan has started reaching out to fortify its military cooperation within the region,” he added. “If we measure military strength in Asia, Japan's Self Defense Forces used to be nearly negligible because its military ‘stays indoors.’ Now Japan may grow into a new regional player in the military arena, and it has the economic might to do so.”
The Three Principles on Arms Exports were adopted by the National Diet of Japan in 1967. The principles stipulate that Japan cannot provide arms to Communist countries, to countries subject to UN arms embargoes, or to countries involved in or likely to become involved in international conflicts.
Japan eased its weapons export restrictions in April 2014, in the first major overhaul of the policy in nearly half a century.