Japan's weapons-makers now open for business
Japan Today -- Oct 15
Often dubbed a hawkish nationalist, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lived up to his billing. Since he returned to power in late 2012, Japan has seen two consecutive rises in defense spending, as well as a record third request for Y5.5 trillion, currently under deliberation.

In July, he pushed through a controversial reinterpretation of the nation's constitution, allowing Japan to come to the aid of its U.S. military ally. Earlier this year, Abe relaxed Japan's four-decade de-facto ban on arms sales abroad.

The decision to relax the arms export rules caught many in the European defence industries by surprise, according to Michel Theoval, EBC senior vice-chair and president of aerospace and defence firm GHT. "They were not at all prepared," he says. "They thought it would take much more time; that it would be much more controversial."

But Theoval says the Japanese side - especially the politicians - now want to move quickly.

To put the changes in context, Japan's defence budget still takes up only about 1% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP), lower than China (1.3%) and a quarter of US defence spending, according to Japan's Ministry of Defense. By comparison, NATO's minimum budget requirement is 2% of GDP. Still, whether Abe's changes are viewed as dangerous sabre rattling or - as his supporters insist - a necessary recalibration of Japan's dysfunctional defence posture, few analysts have been left with any doubt that a new sheriff is in town.

The impact on Japan's biggest military contractors has been striking. Shares in 20 of the largest - including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Mitsubishi Electronics and Kawasaki Heavy Industries - are up over 70% since Abe came to power, according to Goldman Sachs.

News source: Japan Today
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