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Japan Defense Exports Seen Limited Even as Abe Loosens Rules

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s effort to foster Japan’s defense contractors is encountering obstacles from a legacy of relative isolation to concern at the historical stigma of an industry that enabled invasions of Asian neighbors.

The private sector -- led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., heir of the maker of best-in-class Zero fighter planes in World War II -- probably won’t take an aggressive approach to boosting exports, according to a group of ruling-party lawmakers pressing Abe for government leadership on the issue. Abe last month loosened curbs on shipments of defense goods, part of a broader campaign to reduce restrictions on Japan’s military.