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Public concern could bar Japan arm sales to US

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In theory, Japan is ready to export military technology, and even weapons, to the United States. But translating theory into practice may be a long and difficult task.

The US first floated the idea of importing Japanese military technology at a conference with Japanese military officials in Washington last July.

Joji Omura, director of the Self-Defense Agency, was one who immediately saw merit in the suggestion, especially as a means of meeting American pressure on Japan for a bigger military budget and larger regional military role.

Informed sources say that so far Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki and other senior cabinet members are cool to the whole idea.

Suzuki rejects the idea Japan is getting a ''free ride'' on defense. In recent days he has expressed his irritation at American pressure for more Japanese defense spending.

Some observers suggest the prime minister will not want to risk a parliamentary and public uproar that could breath new life into Japan's languishing anti-war movement.

What exactly the US wants remains unclear. But possible cooperation in the fields of super large-scale integrated circuits for computers, robots, ultraviolet devices for night vision, and laser technology were all mentioned when Yutaka Wada, director of the Defence Agency's equipment bureau visited Washington in September.

The consensus of Japanese government agencies is that it is legal for Japan to export military technology to the US.

But there are extremely sensitive political considerations that demand caution.

These revolve around the present ''peace constitution,'' in which Japan has basically forsworn the potential to wage an aggressive war (as distinct from a defensive one).

Out of this grew three principles adopted by the ruling Liberal Democratic government in 1967. They forbid export of weapons to (1) communist countries, (2 ) countries against which a United Nations arms embargo is being applied, and (3 ) any country that could potentially become involved in a military conflict.

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