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Japan Readies Facts for Defense Talks

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The government is rushing to compile details of its financial burden to host U.S. forces in Japan in preparation for a meeting of the defense chiefs of the two countries on Saturday, as well as for a separate meeting of the leaders scheduled for Feb. 10.

The U.S. side has intimated that it has no intention of demanding an increase in Japan’s share of the costs of stationing U.S. forces during the defense chiefs’ talks. However, the unpredictability of the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump is spurring the Japanese government to maintain a vigilant stance.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada spoke at a press conference on Tuesday about her upcoming meeting with new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis. Although she declined to reveal whether the costs of hosting U.S. forces are on the agenda, Inada did say, “I intend to convey Japan’s position firmly and I hope the meeting will allow us to exchange opinions candidly.”

Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis had said the aim of Mattis’ visit to Japan was to strengthen ties and not to submit a list of demands. This has led some to believe that the state of Japan’s financial burden with regard to U.S. bases will not come up at the ministerial meeting.

Trump, however, did refer to increasing Japan’s burden during the U.S. presidential campaign. “We’re preparing to be ready to explain that Japan already has a heavy load, in case there is a demand,” a source inside the Defense Ministry said.

Costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan include land prices and other costs relevant to providing facilities and sites. These are paid for by the Japanese side in keeping with the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, while all other costs, in principle, are covered by the United States.

However, since fiscal 1978, the Japanese side has been expanding the range of its expenses based on demands from the United States. Currently, personnel costs for base employees as well as lighting, heating and water costs are also funded by the Japanese side.

The funds allocated to that end are commonly called “the sympathy budget,” which amounted to ¥191 billion in fiscal 2015. The U.S. side spends only about ¥30 billion for the type of expenses included in the sympathy budget. In this respect, Japan’s share is as high as 86.4 percent.

According to the Defense Ministry, the ultimate total of Japan’s financial burden to host U.S. bases in Japan, including the sympathy budget, and costs related to the reorganization of U.S. forces was about ¥761.2 billion for fiscal 2016. Part of this came from the fiscal 2015 budget. This figure is higher than for any other ally of the United States….(read more)

Source: The Japan News

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