Japan’s finance ministry is calling for a nearly $9 billion cut to the country’s defense budget, amid ongoing increases in military spending under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The cuts are expected to be implemented over five years, Mainichi Shimbun reported Thursday.
According to the report, the finance ministry’s check on military spending is not to curb Abe’s policy of strengthening Japan’s defense posture with new weapons acquisitions, but rather to reduce costs through “cost-effective procurement” and through methods such as competitive bidding.
The cuts will apply to the Japanese military’s medium-term defense program for fiscal years 2019 to 2023, according to Kyodo.
RELATED South Korea, Japan discuss how to handle comfort women agreement
Japan’s defense spending has been ballooning since 2012, when Abe began his second term in office.
For fiscal year 2019, the defense ministry had set a record budget of $47 billion.
Reasons stated for the increases include Japanese military assessments that North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have not completely disappeared, despite Kim Jong Un’s ongoing engagement with South Korea and the United States.
RELATED North Korea promotes ‘soccer diplomacy’ with South Korea, Japan
Actual budgets have also been lower than planned budgets. The current medium-term plan, established in 2014, was budgeted at $219 billion, but the actual budget was well below, at $213 billion. About $6 billion was cut from defense over the past five years, due to measures that included bulk purchasing and replacing specialized equipment with available civilian versions, the finance ministry said.
Japan has stepped up missile purchases, recently equipping its F-35A fighter jets with Joint Strike Missiles with a range of over 300 miles.
The JSM is a long-range missile system designed by Kongsberg Defense systems. The missiles can take on high-value, heavily defended targets.