Japan's government has decided to relax its long-standing arms export ban. This would pave the way for weapons exports abroad along with joint development and production with countries including the United States. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced the decision on Tuesday, after the government''s security council made the approval earlier in the day. Under the new rules, Japan will be able to take part in joint development and production of defense equipment with friendly nations such as the United States, according to Japan''s (NHK WORLD) website. Joint development of fighter planes and other high-tech equipment would be a way to cut costs. The new rules will also allow Japan to transfer defense equipment to other countries when it''s contributing to peace building and international cooperation. Japan''s Self-Defense Forces will be able to provide equipment used during UN peace-keeping operations. This would include heavy construction equipment and protective gear such as helmets and bullet-proof vests. The government has made some exceptions including the Japan-US joint development and production of missile shields since 1983. The government says it will uphold its principle of being a pacifist nation. But defense equipment exports are expected to grow dramatically. Japan''s defense policy will undergo a major change with the decision.