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Japan proposes cuts in host nation support

  • 2015-10-13 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: October 12, 2015 – p. 2)


 The “tug of war” between the Japanese and the U.S. governments over host nation support for the U.S. military after FY2016 is intensifying. While Japan is seeking reductions in host nation support on account of its tight financial situation, the U.S. is insisting on a 30% increase due to defense budget cuts. Although the two governments are set to conclude the negotiations by December, they are running into difficulties.


 As the current agreement concluded in 2011 will expire at the end of March in 2016, the Japanese and the U.S. foreign affairs and defense authorities began in July negotiating to draft a new Special Agreement Concerning the Cost of Stationing U.S. Forces in Japan. The two governments will conclude the negotiations on the level of support for the next five years by the end of December, the deadline for drawing up the draft budget for FY2016.


 In the negotiations so far, Japan has proposed that host nation support be reduced from the current level (189.9 billion yen for FY2015). This is because in addition to financial concerns, the Japanese side judges that following the passage of the security laws, “the Self-Defense Forces will be able to contribute to the protection of the U.S. military’s warships and aircraft, as well as to rear area support” (according to a Japanese government official).


 The increasing cost of the transformation of the U.S. Forces Japan is also a significant factor [behind the Japanese government’s proposal for reducing host nation support]. When the actual construction for relocating the U.S. military Futenma Station to Henoko in Nago City begins, a significant increase in the defense budget will be inevitable. A Finance Ministry official points out that although the amount of host nation support has been declining, “the overall budget will actually increase when the cost for the transformation of the U.S. Forces Japan is added.”


 According to a Japanese government official, the U.S. side is insisting on a 30% increase. This demand is based on the U.S.’s rebalancing policy to move its focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. Under the rebalancing policy, 60% of U.S. warships will be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. In return for the additional deployment of an advanced Aegis cruiser to Japan, the U.S. intends to ask Japan to pay more.


 Views within the Japanese government differ as well. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Ministry are concerned that “if host nation support is reduced, it will affect the expansion of bilateral cooperation.” The Ministry of Finance, which places priority on restoring fiscal soundness, takes a different view from the other two ministries. The Prime Minister’s Official Residence will apparently have to make the final judgment by taking into consideration the security environment surrounding Japan and its financial circumstances.


Ñ Host Nation Support: Japan’s share of the operational costs for the U.S. military bases in Japan. The costs include salaries for Japanese base workers, utility fees for bases, and base facility maintenance. The Japanese and the U.S. governments decide on the amount under the Special Agreement Concerning the Cost of Stationing U.S. Forces in Japan. Host nation support began in 1978 when the Japanese government began paying the salaries of Japanese base workers, taking into consideration a rise in prices and the yen’s appreciation. Later, the support was extended to include utilities expenses. Host nation support has been on the decline after reaching a peak of 275.6 billion yen in 1999.

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