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PM's Japan visit could bring large defence deals to the UK

David Cameron arrives in Tokyo this morning on the first day of a four day tour of the far east Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Prime Minister issued a strong defence of his decision to take a delegation of business leaders – including many defence contractors – on his plane to Japan and South East Asia.

He told reporters on the overnight flight to Japan that is was “perfectly responsible and respectable” to travel with executives from six defence manufacturers.

They are hoping to benefit from Japan’s decision to ease its ban on exports of military equipment late last year.

It opens up a multi-billion pound market to overseas companies, and the UK is the first through the door.

David Cameron said he was “up front” about his decision to bring a delegation of business leaders which include defence contractors like BAE Systems, Thales and AgustaWestland.

Part of the job of the Prime Minister is to load up an aeroplane full of business people, large and small, get our exports up, get our investment up, get out there and fly the flag for Britain. That is what I am trying to do this week.

– David Cameron
AgustaWestland manufactures Apache combat helicopters for the British Army Credit: REUTERS/Steve Lewis

The move could see Britain developing weapons jointly with Japan. It could also lead to Japanese firms placing orders with British companies.

Since the Second World War Japan has not co-operated on the development of weapons with any other country other than the USA. The Prime Minister said:

As these countries, particularly Japan, that have tended in the past to buy only American equipment are opening up, there are opportunities for people like AgustaWestland, who make helicopters, who are on this plane.

Japanese and British flags at Tokyo airport Credit: Reuters

Mr Cameron’s first stop in Japan, the world’s third largest economy, was to the headquarters of Nissan in Yokohama. The car manufacturer has announced that their new hatchback will be built at their plant in Sunderland.

It will create 225 jobs and secure a further 900 in the supply chain. It is in addition to the 2,000 jobs announced last month which will be created by the production of a compact model at the Nissan plant.

Later this week Mr Cameron will travel to Indonesia and Malaysia. He is expected to end his trip with a visit to Burma where he will meet Aung San Suu Kyi – the peace activist who was recently elected a member of Parliament. It would be the first visit by a Western leader to the former British colony for many years.