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Editorial: Fourfold increase in host nation support is not a reasonable request

It has been said that President Trump will request an increase in Japan’s host nation support to an annual amount of 8 billion dollars, which is more than four times the current amount. This request cannot be called reasonable. The Japanese government should turn down this request without fail.


Japan’s host nation support has totaled 946.5 billion yen in the five years since fiscal 2016. This is equivalent to an annual average of 189.3 billion yen. Japan is not obligated to provide this support under the Japan-U.S. Security Agreement. Japan accepted the burden under a special agreement between Japan and the U.S., which is set to expire in March 2021. Negotiations on the matter are expected to start after the November 2020 U.S. presidential election.


Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote in his book that he explained to then-National Security Council Secretary General Shotaro Yachi the reason President Trump is hoping for 8 billion dollars (about 850 billion yen) of support annually.


The increase to 8 billion dollars had been reported previously in the U.S. magazine Foreign Policy. The Japanese government denied the report, but it has now been substantiated in the memoir of an individual who was at the core of the U.S. administration. Prime Minister Abe should clearly explain to the Japanese people what has been discussed with the U.S.


Under the Status of U.S. Forces Agreement (SOFA), which is based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, Japan is responsible for providing facilities such as bases and training grounds for the U.S. forces in Japan. The U.S. is responsible for the cost of stationing the forces in Japan.


Japan’s host nation support (omoiyari yosan) was implemented in fiscal 1978. Through the host nation support, Japan provides financial support for personnel and expenses such as fuel and water, which were originally the U.S.’s responsibility. The strong yen and the U.S.’s fiscal deficit were behind the implementation. When asked for the basis of this budget, Shin Kanemaru, then-Director-General of the Japan Defense Agency, remarked that Japan is acting “out of compassion” [omoiyari]. These costs were not originally Japan’s responsibility.


In addition to the omoiyari yosan, the Japanese government shoulders the cost of rent for U.S. military facilities, measures for areas surrounding the U.S. bases, and restructuring U.S. forces. These costs and subsidies from agencies other than the defense ministry add up to nearly 800 billion yen. This is a heavy burden.


In the last SOFA negotiations, Japan requested a reduction of the omoiyari yosan, citing reasons such as the severe financial situation and expansion of the Self-Defense Forces’ duties. However, the U.S. rejected the request. Japan’s financial situation is now even more severe due to the new coronavirus outbreak. It will be very difficult to obtain the Japanese people’s understanding for an increase in a financial burden that is not based on a treaty.


According to Bolton’s book, President Trump said that if the U.S. threatens to withdraw forces, the U.S. will be able to gain an advantage in negotiations. Such a remark, if true, undermines the Japan-U.S. security framework.


The Japanese government should change its negotiating stance, which has been called that of a follower of the U.S., and go into the negotiations with a firm attitude.

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