What made war-reluctant Japan willing to sell TNT for Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russia?

Sushim MukulJune 4, 2023 | 08:00 IST

The United States is actively pursuing the acquisition of TNT (explosive) from Japan to ensure a steady supply of 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine for the ongoing counteroffensive operation against Russia, reported Reuters.

For war-abstaining Japan, this procurement request poses a challenge as its export rules prohibit Japanese companies from selling lethal items overseas. Japan's experiences of World War II and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and prohibits the maintenance of a military force with war potential) have shaped its stance and policies till now.

Finding a workaround

  • Despite the restrictions, the United States and Japan may have found a way to go ahead with the sale of TNT.
  • Exploiting less stringent export regulations for dual-use products as TNT is not exclusively categorized as a military-use product, and has multiple other uses.
  • The Japanese TNT supplier, however, is not known yet.

Japan's willingness

  • Japan, through discussions with the US, has expressed its willingness to allow the sale of industrial TNT as it does not fall under the 'military-use-only category'.
  • The objective is to involve a Japanese company in the TNT supply chain, delivering the explosives to U.S. munitions plants for packaging into 155mm shell cases.
  • Political and public sentiments show there is a growing acceptance in Japan regarding military aid to Ukraine. Although, the extent of the support and the provision of lethal aid remain disputed.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to help Ukraine due to concerns that a Russian victory would encourage China and potentially threaten Japan's security. Last year, while announcing the $320 billion plan to revamp the Japanese military, he warned that "Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow".
  • After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's visit to Japan at the recently concluded G7 summit, Japan has already started aiding the Ukrainian cause by sending non-lethal provisions like jeeps, helmets and food rations to the war-torn nation.
  • The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have also expressed intentions to ease or eliminate the export restrictions. The long-term goal is to revise export rules, allowing Japan to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine and potentially other nations seen as allies against Russia and China.
  • In the broader scheme of things, Japan is ramping up militarily and tactically to keep the assertive China at bay.

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Last updated: June 04, 2023 | 08:00
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