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Monday, November 18, 2019, 18:11
Japan hosts 1st fully-fledged arms show looking for an edge in tech
By Reuters
Monday, November 18, 2019, 18:11 By Reuters

In this Aug 22, 2019 photo, a soldier fires a Type-01 anti tank missile from a light armoured vehicle during Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces' annual live fire exercise at the Higashi-Fuji firing range in Gotemba in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP)

TOKYO - Japan's first ever fully-fledged arms show opened on Monday, creating a forum that Japan's government hopes will help it tap technology it needs to counter threats posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Some 200 protesters gathered near the entrance of the convention center near Tokyo, calling for the government-backed DSEI Japan exhibition to be shut down as they regarded it as an affront to the nation's pacifist constitution.

Technology is advancing quickly and our equipment can't cope against things such as hypersonic warheads and drones.

General Nakatani, Former defense minister and senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, Japan

Worried by DPRK's ballistic missile advances, Japan has increased defense spending over the past seven years to around US$50 billion annually, purchasing advanced US stealth fighters, missile defense interceptors and radar systems.

ALSO READ: Japan's military seeks 8th straight annual hike in defense spending

"Technology is advancing quickly and our equipment can't cope against things such as hypersonic warheads and drones," Gen. Nakatani, a former defense minister and senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker told Reuters at the arms show.

"Innovation is happening around the world and through an exchange of that Japan will be able to keep up," he added.

Recent DPRK advances threaten to make Japan's new missile defences obsolete before they are deployed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government in 2014 abolished a decades-long ban on foreign military exports in a bid to cut procurement costs by allowing Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to widen their production base.

Yet in the more than five years since that ban ended Japan has largely failed to make inroads overseas, hobbled both by a lack of experience and concern that the reputational risk of selling arms could hurt other more profitable businesses.

ALSO READ: Japan says DPRK developing warheads to penetrate missile defenses

There is still abiding foreign interest in tapping Japanese technology for military use, with companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon Co and BAE Systems PLC all looking for new partnerships in Japan.

"There is a great deal of interest internationally in seeing what Japan has to offer the world," said Alex Soar, international development director at Clarion Events which organized the show covering land, air and naval equipment.

Abe's government faces opposition at home to policies that some Japanese people fear could erode the pacifist constitution and herald a return to the militarism that devastated the country in World War II.

"Producing more weapons is not going to make us safer. Japan has to rely on diplomacy," said one of the protesters, who only gave her first name Takako.

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