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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January, 2005, 23:36 GMT
Japan hopes for Israel arms halt
Israeli FM Silvan Shalom with Japanese FM Nobutaka Machimura
Mr Machimura did not mention any specific Asian country
Japan has asked Israel to stop selling arms to its regional rivals, the country's foreign minister said during a visit to Jerusalem.

Nobutaka Machimura, in the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, said he had raised the subject with counterpart Silvan Shalom.

Mr Machimura said he had made similar requests to Russia and the EU.

Earlier Mr Machimura met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. He said Japan was eager to work for peace.

Israel is a leading developer of weapons systems, and has developed the world's only functioning anti-missile system, Arrow, in conjunction with the US.

Japan recently approved new defence guidelines aimed at developing a missile security programme with the US.

'General request'

But the country's constitution, drafted in the wake of the Japanese defeat in World War II, explicitly renounces force of arms as a method of resolving international disputes.

Despite this, the new defence guidelines describe North Korea and China as potential military threats to Japan.

North Korea has been pursuing a nuclear programme, while China is currently modernising its military.

Israel was recently in dispute with the US about the sale of pilotless "drone" technology to China.

Mr Machimura said he raised the issue in a "general way" during talks with Mr Shalom in Jerusalem.

Both nations agreed to work to increase bilateral trade to $3bn per year, Mr Shalom said.

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