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Itochu Aviation moves beyond the defense of Japan

Founded in 1973 as an exclusive defense contractor to the Japanese government, Itochu Aviation has expanded its original mission to now include acting as consultants to American aerospace companies interested in doing business in Japan and an intermediary between American and Japanese industries and Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

Itochu Aviation, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Itochu International, has since become a licensee and supplier of U.S. defense technology to the defense ministry and secured projects overseas, the most recent one supplying the new airport in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.

With Itochu Aviation President Greg Kasagawa

With the daily news coverage of geopolitical tension and conflicts in different parts of the world, people have begun to change their attitudes towards security issues and the defense industry.

“Ordinary people now realize that peace must be established by ourselves. The distance between people and defense forces is getting smaller as security issues become part of daily life. This is very different from how Japanese used to think,” Itochu Aviation President and CEO Greg Kasagawa said.

Following the Second World War, Japan’s trading companies fulfilled a valuable role in rebuilding the country: to export machinery and earn foreign currency. In the aerospace industry, the major Japanese trading companies competed against each other in supplying American and European companies.

But exports were limited because Japanese trading companies relied on technologies introduced by the United States and Europe. So, while they tried to generate more revenues outside Japan, these companies still relied heavily on contracts and licenses from the Ministry of Defense.

While Japan’s brands are now known around the world for their quality and reliability, the Japanese aerospace industry still does not produce on a large scale and thus remains uncompetitive in terms of cost. As a leader in the industry, Itochu Aviation is focusing on three main priorities to bring the entire industry and the company forward.

Itochu Aviation is leading efforts to bring all Japanese aviation and aerospace companies closer. Because the Japanese defense ministry deals directly with the U.S. government, participation of Japan’s industry has not grown despite the country’s growing defense budget. Itochu wants the entire industry to act collectively and seek more involvement in those defense deals.

Secondly, Itochu Aviation is intensifying efforts to grow its commercial business, especially outside Japan. Kasagawa hopes to achieve sustainable growth for its overseas business, particularly in Asia.

Lastly, Itochu Aviation is seeking opportunities to strengthen the defense capability of the region. The company is confident it can supply top quality equipment to its Asian neighbors wanting to improve their defense and security capabilities.

“During the post-war period, Itochu brought technologies into Japan that provided the foundation of today’s Japanese industrial giants. Now, consolidation of the industry is needed for us to grow. While the first priority is the conventional expansion within Japan, the next two focus on the marketplace outside Japan, which are both very important,” Kasagawa said.

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Japan 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

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