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Japan to request U.S. improve management of military sales program

Japan and 10 other countries are set to request the United States improve the management of its military equipment sales program after delivery delays and the slow return of excess payments, government sources recently said.

Worried about deployment plans being affected by the current operation of the Foreign Military Sales program, the Japanese Defense Ministry has sought to first tackle the issue of its inability to confirm whether a delivery has been shipped due to documentation issues.

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

Under the FMS program, the United States sells to its allies the country’s latest military equipment, including fighter jets. The purchasing countries make payments based on estimates provided by the United States and the excess is returned.

The use of the U.S. program has been blamed as a reason for Japan’s ballooning defense expenses, which hit a record high 701.3 billion yen ($6.4 billion) in fiscal 2019 ending this March.

As of the end of fiscal 2018, there were 132 cases of non-deliveries totaling 32.6 billion yen and 263 cases of unreturned excess payments worth 49.3 billion yen, and Japan’s Board of Audit has repeatedly asked the Defense Ministry to address the issues.

Last year, the ministry proposed setting up in Washington a working group among defense attaches of impacted countries to address their issues with the U.S. system. Among the countries that agreed were Australia, South Korea, Canada and Belgium.

Japan has been utilizing the program with an eye on the deteriorating security environment, including countering North Korea’s repeated firing of ballistic missiles. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been vocal in his ambition to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan, has been promoting military exports.

Through the FMS program, Japan is obtaining 147 F-35 fighter jets that each cost 10 billion yen.

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

© KYODO

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