(Tokyo Shimbun: November 7, 2015 – p. 2)
Although the Abe administration has effectively lifted the ban on weapons exports, Japan has fallen into an ironic situation in which Tokyo increasingly relies on imports from the U.S. for weapons procurement.
There are three ways for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to procure weapons: 1) domestic manufacture of weapons; 2) licensed production in Japan of foreign-made weapons; and 3) weapons imports. Weapons can be imported through either foreign military sales (FMS) or civilian imports.
While domestically manufactured weapons and licensed production are effective methods for developing and assimilating technology, they are costly. FMS enables Japan to obtain high-performance weapons, but the program is bound by rules unthinkable under normal business practices. For example, the U.S. government is not responsible for meeting delivery dates and is allowed to change prices.
By making FMS a one-sided arrangement, the U.S. government aims to control other countries militarily through weapons exports. Weapons are procured from the U.S. by 160 countries through FMS.
Countries agree to procure American weapons through the unfair FMS because of the weapons’ high performance and reliability, which has been proven in wars involving the U.S. When certain countries possess American weapons, others feel insecure unless they have the same weapons. This has resulted in making the U.S. “the sole winner.”
In October the Defense Ministry launched the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), which is in charge of overseeing the research and development, procurement, and maintenance of weapons. However, it remains to be seen whether the new agency will be able to intervene in the “vested interests” of uniformed personnel on budgetary processes. If the GDSF, MSDF, and ASDF continue procuring weapons as they wish, leading to further reliance on FMS and the dominance of the U.S., ATLA’s raison d’etre will be called into question.