Japan, Britain eye joint arms development: Media

TOKYO - Japan is planning to jointly develop weapons with Britain as Tokyo looks to boost its defence industry after easing a decades-old ban on arms exports, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is seeking to reach a deal on the defence partnership during a visit by his British counterpart David Cameron planned for April, the Sankei Shimbun said.

The British government has so far proposed plans to jointly develop four items, including the autoloading system for 155-millimetre (6.2-inch) howitzers, the daily said.

The move came after Tokyo relaxed its self-imposed ban on arms exports in December, paving the way for Japanese firms to participate in multinational weapons projects.

In a move intended to bolster the domestic arms industry and reduce defence spending, officially pacifist Japan is for the first time in decades routinely allowing its companies to partner with foreign firms to develop weapons.

Japan, whose industries took years to recover after World War II, declared in 1967 that it would tightly control its foreign weapons sales.

The new rules allow Japan to develop and produce arms jointly with the United States and European countries and to export military equipment intended for operations such as UN peacekeeping.