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The US ambassador to Japan says strengthening ties with the arms industry is key to a stronger security alliance

TOKYO (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Japan on Tuesday called on Tokyo to play a greater role in developing, producing and supplying weapons “to enhance our collective security” amid conflict in Ukraine, Gaza and elsewhere.

Ambassador Rahm Emanuel visited an F-35 fighter jet factory of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and emphasized the importance of stronger cooperation between the Allies in the defense industry. The United States alone can no longer provide for all democracies, he said.

The visit came after the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida‘s trip to Washington, where he met President Joe Biden and highlighted Japan’s commitment to doing more as a reliable partner, especially in defense cooperation.

The countries will now look at what Japan can co-license, co-produce and co-develop, Emanuel told reporters. “It is extremely exciting to bring Japan’s industrial capabilities and technical knowledge to the field on behalf of the alliance,” he said.

Under the national security strategy adopted by the Kishida government in 2022, Japan is accelerating its military build-up and increasing its defense budget despite threats from China, North Korea and Russia. Japan pledged to acquire what it calls counter-strike capabilities and bought 400 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, a break with its postwar pacifist principles.

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Japan has also dramatically relaxed its arms export rules. It allowed the sale of lethal weapons to countries where they were licensed, and the overseas sale of a fighter jet it is developing with Britain and Italy. The changes have allowed Japan to ship Japanese-made PAC-3 missiles to the US to replace the missiles Washington contributed to Ukraine.

Many US allies have increased their defense budgets and capabilities following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Hamas attack on Israel. To meet security, defense and deterrence obligations, “we cannot afford for Japan to remain on the sidelines,” the US ambassador said.

Mitsubishi Heavy’s F-35 final assembly and checkout plant near Nagoya produces six of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jets. per year and provides maintenance work for those deployed in Japan. The ambassador called the F-35 “the most modern and capable aircraft we have in our collective defense and deterrence industry.”

Areas for possible cooperation will be discussed at a military industry council and reported to the foreign and defense ministers in both countries, Emanuel said.

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