By Hatakeyama Shu
The Japanese and U.S. governments are negotiating to finalize the details of an increase in Japan’s share of stationing U.S. troops in Japan (omoiyari yosan) beyond 250 billion yen per year, starting in FY 2022. The increase, more than 50 billion yen from 201.7 billion yen in FY 2020, would be the largest year-on-year boost in host nation support. The biggest year-on-year increase made to date was 30.4 billion yen in FY 1993, according to a Japanese government source. This time the Japanese government concluded that it is necessary for Japan to enhance coordination with the U.S. troops stationed in Japan in the face of the improving capabilities of the Chinese military.
The two governments hope to reflect the increase in the initial FY 2022 national budget, which is scheduled for cabinet approval by the end of the year. To this end, they will work out the outline of the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), which provides the basis for Japan’s host nation support, by early December. The new SMA will cover the period from FY 2022 to FY 2026. So far most of the cost borne by Japan as part of host nation support has been utility and labor expenses at U.S. bases. The two governments are considering including expenses incurred by joint military exercises in the new SMA.
The Japanese government has maintained a cautious stance toward a sharp increase in its share of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country due to budgetary constraints. However, the government decided to boost its share considering the rising tensions in the security environment, including China’s military buildup. As a result, the total amount of Japan’s host nation support may end up exceeding the largest amount in the past, 275.6 billion yen in FY 1999.
Host nation support was first allocated in FY 1978. It peaked in FY 1999 and decreased with the end of the Cold War and the burst of Japan’s economic bubble. It fell to 184.8 billion yen, the lowest figure ever, in FY 2014, before starting to increase again. The largest year-on-year increase after 2015 was 5.1 billion yen. From FY 2020 to FY 2021, the amount increased by 2.4 billion yen.
The latest SMA expired at the end of FY 2020. Because the timing of the expiration coincided with the change of the U.S. administration, a temporary measure was taken to extend the SMA for a year to cover FY 2021 [instead of negotiating a new agreement]. In the joint statement issued after the Japan-U.S. summit meeting in April 2021, the Japanese and U.S. leaders announced a policy of enhancing Japan’s defense capabilities. Since then, the two governments have been negotiating to revise the SMA.