The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to increase the total amount of Japan’s share of the costs for stationing U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ) (consideration budget) to 1.0551 trillion yen for the five-year period starting from fiscal 2022. The annual average costs will be about 211 billion yen, an increase of nearly 10 billion yen from the current figure. We would like to see this increase used to enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Japan has no obligation to pay the costs of hosting USFJ, but it has shouldered a part of the expenses since fiscal 1978. Negotiations to decide on the costs for the next five years had been on hold until the launch of the new U.S. administration.
The new agreement will eventually reduce military bases’ utility expenses by 40%. The inclusion of the utility expenses had come under strong criticism. Japan will instead bear “training equipment procurement costs.” These include the cost of latest system for virtual combat, which can be jointly used for training of the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). A total of up to 20 billion yen for five years will be allocated for such costs.
The government calls the expenses the “budget to enhance the resilience of the alliance,” which will increase the USFJ’s response readiness in the face of China’s rise and enhance the ability to deter and respond under the Japan-U.S. security alliance. The effort to allocate a substantial sum to areas useful for Japan’s defense can be said to be appropriate.
The U.S. government’s focus on countering China can be clearly seen from the deployment of its overseas military forces. A bigger role for Japan in this situation is unavoidable.
According to a Ministry of Defense (MOD) estimate, Japan covered 86% of the hosting costs in FY2015, which is high compared to South Korea, Germany, and other countries which host U.S. forces. Japan should ask for the U.S.’s understanding on this point so that the consideration budget does not grow unilaterally.
The duties and activities of the SDF have been expanded under the security legislation to include such activities as the protection of U.S. vessels, and the purchases of defense equipment has also increased. The appropriate level of expenses for Japan, which is an important site for the U.S. military for forward deployment, needs to be discussed in the context of the overall vision for the alliance.
Recently, an F-16 fighter affiliated with the U.S. Misawa Air Base jettisoned two fuel tanks during flight, and they landed near a residential area. There are growing concerns in Okinawa about the spread of COVID-19 from the U.S. military bases.
As the importance of the alliance grows, we would like the Japanese government to assert itself with the U.S. military and gain the support of the people.