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Editorial: Deciding appropriate share for hosting U.S. bases needs calm talks

  • September 23, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:46 p.m.
  • English Press

Moves are emerging in the United States to call for its allies to increase spending for hosting U.S. military forces. The government should hold consultative talks with Washington calmly while taking into consideration the bilateral relationship of trust.


Washington has decided to divert part of the Defense Department budget for additional construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. The budget includes about ¥43 billion in facility maintenance expenses for U.S. military forces stationed in Japan.


Building the border wall to prevent the inflow of illegal immigrants is a centerpiece campaign pledge of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The planned diversion is likely aimed at ensuring the fiscal resources for wall construction without going through procedures to obtain approval from Congress.


Washington has announced the decision without making sufficient consultations with Tokyo. Does the U.S. action seem to lack consideration to its ally?


The U.S. government is said to negotiate with the governments of relevant countries over how to secure the maintenance expenses of the U.S. bases that will be reduced. Tokyo must deal with the situation prudently by scrutinizing the detail of the U.S. plan.


A matter of concern is that the budget to be diverted includes expenses for construction of base facilities in the U.S. territory of Guam.


Tokyo and Washington have agreed that, of the 19,000 U.S. Marine Corps personnel stationed in Okinawa Prefecture, 4,000 will be transferred to Guam and 5,000 will be moved to other locations including the U.S. mainland. The transfers are scheduled to start in the first half of the 2020s.


If work to expand the bases in Guam stagnates, it will delay the transfer of the marine corps. The government needs to earnestly discuss with Washington ways to realize the transfers as planned.


Strategic approach vital


The Japan-U.S. special agreement on expenses shouldered by Tokyo in relation to U.S. troops stationed in Japan, known as a “sympathy budget,” will expire at the end of March 2021. Voices of concern have been emerging that the Trump administration’s policy calling for allies to increase their financial burdens of hosting U.S. forces will affect negotiations on revising the agreement.


In its fiscal 2019 budget, the government allocated ¥750 billion for such purposes as bearing expenses for U.S. forces stationed in Japan and realignment of U.S. troops. This includes the sympathy budget of ¥160 billion covering utilities and labor expenses for the personnel working at U.S. military facilities.


As many as 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed at more than 70 U.S. military installations in Japan. They constitute the bedrock of the Japan-U.S. alliance and are indispensable to ensuring the security of Japan.


It is natural for Japan to bear the costs that are necessary for activities of the U.S. military. But the percentage of costs shouldered by Japan is around 80 percent, which is greater than those borne by other countries hosting U.S. military bases.


With the use of military bases provided by Japan, the United States has maintained a position of superiority in terms of security in areas stretching from the Asia-Pacific to the Indian Ocean. This has brought about economic benefits to the United States as well.


It is essential for Tokyo to tenaciously stress these points to Washington and thus carry out negotiations strategically.


It will also become important to try to reduce the U.S. military’s burden through expansion of the Self-Defense Forces’ cooperation with them, which has been made possible in the aftermath of the establishment of security-related laws.

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