Japan has provided a shipment of ammunition to a United Nations peacekeeping mission in troubled South Sudan, making it the first time since WWII that Tokyo has given arms to a foreign military.
Responding to requests by the UN, Japan said it gave 10,000 bullets late Monday to the South Korean military, which is part of an international force dealing with violence that threatens to return South Sudan to civil war.
Japan has a pacifist constitution and is subject to a self-imposed ban on arms exports, but Tokyo officials say the law allows the provision of arms as part of UN peacekeeping operations if approved by the cabinet.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned to power for a second time one year ago, has said he would like to revise the constitution to allow for what he calls a more "proactive peace policy" around the world.
He has also proposed relaxing the decades-old ban on the export, development and production of Japanese weapons.
Last week, Prime Minister Abe won cabinet approval for a new defense plan calling for a five percent increase in military spending by 2019. He has also set up a National Security Council in order to consolidate the control of security policies.
The moves are seen by many as a response to growing military assertiveness by China, which is involved in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.