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Purchases of U.S.-made military equipment inflate Japan’s defense budget

  • December 19, 2017
  • , Asahi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

Japan’s defense budget has set a new all-time high for the sixth straight year since the launch of the second Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe primarily due to the introduction of U.S.-made defense equipment. The move is supporting U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Buy American” mandate.


In addition to a record-high defense budget for fiscal 2018, the Japanese government will additionally seek roughly 200 billion yen, including some 60 billion yen earmarked for defense against a ballistic missile attack, in its draft supplementary budget for this fiscal year. The budget includes 2.8 billion yen as costs related to the land-based Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system. The government will also allocate 730 million yen for the Aegis system in the next fiscal year’s budget. It will investigate geological features and test for possible radio wave interference at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) training areas in Akita city and Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, which are candidate sites for the deployment.


It is noteworthy that the Aegis Ashore system and long-range cruise missiles that are loaded onto fighter jets, large items in the defense budget, are expensive American products.


The cost of the Aegis Ashore system includes technical support provided by the U.S. But the installation cost of a Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Ashore system is expected to be just under 100 billion yen and it will place a huge financial burden on Japan when it fully introduces two Aegis Ashore systems.


The Japanese government has been ramping up its purchases of U.S.-made military equipment in recent years. The initial budget for fiscal 2018 includes the purchase of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A fighter jets, a Global Hawk drone made by the U.S.’s Northrop Grumman, and the V-22 Osprey aircraft, which was jointly developed by Boeing and Bell Helicopters of the U.S.


President Trump, whose slogan is “Buy American,” is aggressively working on exporting military equipment. When he visited Japan in November, he blatantly asked Japan to buy U.S.-made military equipment during a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart by saying, “What is very important is that the Prime Minister of Japan is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment. We have been making the world’s best military equipment.”


A former senior official of Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF) says that Japan can benefit from purchasing U.S.-made equipment because it “allows the nation to bring in the functions and capabilities of U.S.’s cutting-edge weapons.” On the other hand, purchasing a lot of American equipment will increase Tokyo’s payments to Washington and weigh on Japan’s defense budget.


Procurement of U.S.-made military equipment is conducted between the Japanese and U.S. governments through the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Since Abe took office, purchases through FMS have been ballooning. In fiscal 2012, Japan spent 138 billion yen for purchasing defense equipment under FMS arrangements. But the figure is expected to rise to 480.4 billion yen (based on a budgetary request) in fiscal 2018. Some people worry that payments to the U.S. could come at the expense of training and equipment maintenance.


Others point out that purchases through FMS arrangements tend to force purchasers to swallow the U.S.’s “asking prices.” The unit price of a Global Hawk significantly exceeded an initial estimate and shot up to 18.9 billion yen, forcing Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) to consider suspending the purchase. But a senior MOD official says that the ministry got the “go-ahead” when it asked the Office of the Prime Minister to make a decision.


The prime minister is extremely positive about purchasing U.S.-made equipment, saying, “I think it will contribute to the U.S. economy and job market.” But others in the government say, “Purchases of U.S. products have already become a political issue.”



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