Photo/IllutrationJapan will acquire this F-35A fighter jet from the United States. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Defense Ministry plans to seek a record budget of about 5.4 trillion yen ($48.6 billion) for fiscal 2019 to finance purchases of expensive U.S.-made equipment including the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system.

The expected sum will be about 200 billion yen more than the original budget amount for the current fiscal year.

It continues the pattern of increase every year since Shinzo Abe began his second stint as prime minister in late 2012.

The increase in defense spending comes despite signs of growing dialogue between the United States and North Korea. The Abe Cabinet in June approved the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy's basic policy to "substantially strengthen its defense capabilities" to deal with the situation surrounding North Korea as well as the moves being made by China to expand its military presence.

With U.S. President Donald Trump continuing with his call for allies to "Buy American," the trend of higher defense spending will likely continue over the next few years.

About 267.9 billion yen will be needed to purchase two units of the Aegis Ashore system, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. of the United States, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles launched by North Korea.

The fiscal 2018 budget included a total of 78.5 billion yen for the acquisition of six F-35A fighter jets, but an additional number of the U.S. advanced stealth aircraft will also be purchased through the fiscal 2019 budget.

A major reason for the ballooning defense budget is the system of paying for expensive equipment over the course of a number of years. For the fiscal 2019 budget request, about 40 percent, or more than 2 trillion yen, will go to pay for such equipment initially contracted in earlier years.

Paying for the equipment over a number of years also makes it much more difficult to slash spending since a certain amount is automatically included in each fiscal year's budget from past acquisitions.