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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 November 5 - 11  > Japan’s shipbuilding giants heading toward rapid militarization
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2014 November 5 - 11 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Japan’s shipbuilding giants heading toward rapid militarization

November 7 & 11, 2014
As the Abe government is accelerating moves to turn Japan into a war-fighting nation, Japan’s heavy industry sector is gearing up for military-related orders.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is famous as the shipbuilding company which built the battleship “Musashi” during World War II. After the war, under the pacifist Constitution, the shipbuilder converted to constructing commercial vessels. In the 1950s, it became the largest shipbuilding corporation in the world. Now, however, the company is again turning itself into a major military manufacturer.

Kaetsu University Professor Emeritus Koga Yoshihiro, a researcher on the shipbuilding industry, points out that against the backdrop of MHI’s change of course are structural changes in the global shipbuilding market.

After WWII, Japan’s shipbuilders grew by leaps and bounds riding the wave of the rapid economic growth. In the mid-1980s, South Korean shipbuilding companies procured an increasing number of contracts. In the 2000s, Chinese ship constructors achieved rapid growth and Japanese firms have been losing their share in the global market.

Facing this challenge, Japan’s shipbuilders have been increasing their focus on militarization in the 2010s. Koga said that MHI is heading this trend. “Mitsubishi is trying to break through the difficulty by focusing on the construction of state-of-the-art warships, including submarines and Aegis cruisers.”

Of the six Aegis destroyers owned by Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, one was built by IHI Corporation and the rest were built by MHI. MHI is now the largest arms manufacturer in the country.

Japan’s shipbuilders have persistently urged successive governments to increase national military expenditures as well as lift the ban on arms exports. In 2007, MHI Chairman Nishioka Takashi criticized Japan’s three principles banning weapons exports, saying that the policy “is hindering the development of Japanese makers’ technological capabilities” and “going against the aim of the Japan-U.S. alliance”.

On April 1 this year, the Abe administration removed the arms embargo. On the same day, then Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Yonekura Hiromasa published a comment enthusiastically welcoming the policy change.

These moves of both Japan’s government and major shipbuilders are running counter to the spirit of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

Past related article:
> Lifting arms embargo is integral to Abe’s attempt to build war-fighting Japan: Yamashita [April 2, 2014]
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