Japan is making its first big arms sales play outside of its regional market—to the UK. Reuters reports:
Japan is asking Britain to buy its P-1 submarine-hunting jet in a deal that could top $1 billion, a major step in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to arms exports after decades of self-imposed restrictions, people with knowledge of the proposal said.
The P-1, Reuters reports, is up against Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon sub-hunter, and the sale is far from assured. But even so, the pitch represents an important coming-out for Japan on the global stage:
“If the UK gives it serious consideration, then the P-1 will garner attention internationally,” one Japanese source said.“It has potential customers beyond the UK, like New Zealand, Norway and Canada, with large maritime areas,” said UK consultant Simon Chelton, a former BAE Systems Plc executive and defense attache at the British Embassy in Tokyo.“We are considering a number of options in regard to defense equipment sales, but we don’t comment on specific deals,” said Japanese Defense Ministry’s spokesman Hirofumi Takeda.
Japan’s growing militarism has been one of the most significant changes that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed on his country in 2014. In the past year, Abe and his cabinet proposed a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow for “collective self-defense,”–essentially rearmament plus closer relations with the militaries of friendly states. Japan is currently in negotiations to build sophisticated submarines for Australia. Getting its sub-hunters into the arsenals of other friendly Western powers would be an even more resounding success—and will be a strong signal to China that its aggressive territorial ambitions can and will be checked.