Japan to seek more transparent and efficient procurement of U.S. arms

Kyodo

In its new defense buildup guidelines, Japan is considering including a pledge to improve the transparency and efficiency of its procurement process for U.S. military equipment amid concerns over its rising defense budget, government sources said Friday.

Japan purchases U.S. defense equipment mainly through a foreign military sales arrangement, which Washington uses to prevent sensitive military technology from leaking. But critics say it leads Tokyo to buy equipment at high prices.

The government had touched on the need to curb defense equipment costs “in general” in the past, but it is considering referring to “improving the foreign military sales system” for the first time in the guidelines as procurement costs under the arrangement are increasing, one of the sources said.

The “improvement” indicates the government will try to work to make the procurement costs more transparent and seek to curb prices, but whether the move will materialize will be up to negotiations with the United States.

Such a move is apparently aimed at winning public support over plans to continue to buy U.S. defense equipment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is moving to introduce costly defense equipment through the foreign military sales program, such as F-35 stealth fighters and the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system.

Payments made through the program have accounted for about 70 percent of Japan’s total procurement of imported defense equipment in recent years.

The government values the foreign military sales system as it enables the country to purchase “cutting-edge” U.S. defense equipment that involves sensitive technology. But the recipient basically has to accept the price tag presented by the U.S. government and the delivery date. Sometimes there are delays in delivery.

Japan compiles its defense capability target guidelines over a roughly 10-year span. The existing guidelines were updated in 2013, but Abe has ordered a review of the policy in the face of North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile development programs.

In the new guidelines to be decided by year’s end, the government is also expected to call for quickly beefing up defense against cyberattacks and threats from outer space.

The sources said the government sees cyberspace as having “vital importance” in modern warfare and that it plans to stipulate in the guidelines that the Self-Defense Forces should also develop a “counterattack ability” against cyberattacks.