Sunday’s Sankei ran a story about the behind-the-scenes discussions between the United States and Japan ahead of their signing on Jan. 7 of a new special agreement on Japan’s share of the cost of stationing U.S. forces in Japan. The paper noted that former President Trump’s National Security Advisor Bolton claimed in his memoir that the Trump administration called on Japan to raise its host nation support to $8 billion a year. However, the signing of the new accord had been postponed for a year from March 2021 after the former president lost the presidential race in 2020. The paper claimed that LDP lawmakers who have an influence over Japan’s national defense policy repeatedly sent warnings to people connected to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo by saying that the ruling party would not remain silent if Japan were asked to increase its share and that host nation support should be used for the SDF’s procurement and research and development, arguing that Japan’s host nation support should be reduced because the SDF is now playing a role in protecting U.S. military vessels based on the new security legislation.
According to the paper, some on the U.S. side initially called on Japan to shoulder the cost of ammunition and fuel for the U.S. military, but senior Defense Ministry officials reacted strongly to the request by saying the U.S. military would be comparable to a mercenary force if Japan were to accept such a request. The paper alleged that calls for an increase in Japan’s share did not abate under the Biden administration due in part to pressure from Congress because Japan’s defense spending continues to be about 1% of its GDP, much lower the goal of 2% set by NATO. The GOJ eventually persuaded the United States to reduce Japan’s contribution of U.S. military facilities’ utility costs by insisting that it is difficult to explain to the Japanese public that such spending is directly contributing to the enhancement of deterrence and response capabilities of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The paper added that although the GOJ changed the name of Japan’s share from “consideration budget” to “budget to enhance the resilience of the alliance” in view of the change in the nature of the spending, the United States government continues to call it “host nation support.”