Japan set to sell US-2 plane to India, first sale of hardware used by military
Deal would be first sale of hardware used by the military and is seen as part of efforts by Tokyo and Delhi to contain the rise of China
Japan is close to signing an agreement to supply amphibious planes to India, a report said yesterday, in what would be the first sale of hardware used by the military since a weapons export ban was imposed.
During a four-day visit to Tokyo by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, scheduled to start later yesterday, the two sides are set to firm up plans for Delhi to purchase the US-2, a domestically developed aircraft used by Japan's armed forces.
The sale, reported by the Nikkei business daily, would be the first of a finished product made by Japan's home-grown defence industry since rules were imposed restricting the export of weapons systems and other equipment. It would also mark a strengthening of the alliance between Japan and India, which both see China's rise as a threat to regional stability.
"If Japan and India sign the deal, it would be the first deal of its kind," said Zhou Yongsheng , a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. "The region fears being dominated by a rising China, and the Japanese government has wooed the Indians and other Asian countries with military and economic enticements to get them to co-operate with the Japanese to contain China's rise."
Experts say the aircraft must be classified for civilian use if it is to comply with Japan's 1967 ban on arms exports, part of the post-war anti-militarist drive.
The US-2, developed by ShinMaywa Industries, has been sold to the Japanese navy at a price of roughly 10 billion yen (HK$766 million). It has a range of 4,700 kilometres and can land in seas with waves of up to three metres.
"If the US-2 is exported to India for civilian use, that would be the first case of exports of Japanese-developed weaponry used by the defence ministry for civilian use," a trade ministry official in charge of arms sales said.
ShinMaywa opened a sales office in New Delhi last year and has been promoting the plane there, a spokesman for the company said. The Nikkei said India was looking to acquire at least 15 of the aircraft.
Japan has sought to expand the market for its defence industry. It has exported technology or parts of military hardware but not finished products.
"The Japanese government started to realise India is an important growing market and they share a broad common interest to contain China," Chinese Association for South Asian Studies president Sun Shihai said. "The sale of the planes is one of the strategies of the Japanese government to build up a better relationship with India. However, it will not affect India's policy on China."
The plane could be deemed to have a non-military - for example, search and rescue - purpose if "friend-or-foe" identification systems were disabled, officials said, making it eligible for export.
In 2011 Tokyo eased the ban on arms exports, paving the way for Japanese firms to take part in multinational weapons projects.
The reported talks on sales "are based on policy decisions made a few years ago that Japan has to support its defence industry by diverting military technology to civilian use for export", said Takehiko Yamamoto, professor of international relations at Waseda University. Otherwise, major Japanese firms "will not be able to maintain their pool of engineers to develop military technology that is essential for the defence of Japan", he said.