• Kyodo

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Japan and 10 other countries are set to ask the United States to improve the way it manages its military sales program to address equipment-delivery delays and the slow return of excess payments, government sources say.

Worried about its deployment plans being affected by the way the Foreign Military Sales program is being run, the Defense Ministry has raised the issue of its inability to confirm whether a delivery has been shipped, which it says is being caused by documentation issues.

It also plans to bring up the issue of pricing, which some have criticized as lacking transparency.

The FMS program is what the United States uses to sell allies its latest military equipment, including fighter jets. The purchasing countries make payment based on estimates provided by the U.S., and any excess is returned.

The program has been blamed as one of the reasons behind Japan’s ballooning defense expenses, which hit a record high ¥701.3 billion ($6.4 billion) in fiscal 2019 ending this month.

As of the end of fiscal 2018, there were 132 cases of nondeliveries totaling ¥32.6 billion and 263 cases of unreturned refunds worth ¥49.3 billion. The Board of Audit in Japan has repeatedly asked the Defense Ministry to address the issues.

Last year, the ministry proposed that a working group be set up in Washington among defense attaches from similarly affected countries to address their issues with the U.S. system. Among those that agreed were Australia, South Korea, Canada and Belgium.

Japan has been using FMS in light of the deteriorating security environment in Asia, including North Korea’s repeated firing of ballistic missiles. In the meantime, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been vocal about his ambition to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan, has been promoting U.S. military exports toward that end.

Japan has thus purchased 147 F-35 stealth jets through FMS that cost ¥10 billion each.

Data by the Board of Audit showed that Japan’s FMS spending ranked third after Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the U.S. fiscal year ended in September 2017.

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