Some 200 protesters gathered outside a convention center near Tokyo to demonstrate against the government-backed DSEI Japan exhibition, the country’s first-ever arms show.
The Japanese government is hoping to garner interest from weapons manufacturers in a bid to boost its own arsenal to help counter looming regional threats from China and North Korea.
Protesters worry the move is yet another step towards militarism, with placards emblazoned with slogans like “Say NO to Merchant of death and military exhibition!” and “War starts here. Let’s STOP it here. Stop Arms Fair!”
The country has increased defense spending to roughly $50 billion per year, a decision that many feel contravenes the nation’s pacifist constitution.
There has been major opposition to the purchase of US stealth fighters, missile defense interceptors and radar systems among other technologies, which the government argues will dissuade North Korea from carrying out more missile tests in the Sea of Japan.
“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 said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is also attempting to keep pace with China, whose defense budget is over three times that of Japan.
In 2014, Abe’s government abolished a decades-long ban on the foreign military exports to allow Japanese companies like Mitsubishi to expand their technological offerings. However, the measure has largely failed as Japanese companies are both inexperienced in the arms development trade and do not wish to endanger their existing businesses.
In the same year the government reinterpreted its US-drafted constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight overseas. Abe’s government has sought to further amend the country’s constitution in order to bolster the country’s military which, for now at least, remains a defense force.
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