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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 13 - 19  > Japan can be urged to pay 2 trillion yen for USFJ under Trump’s ‘Cost Plus 50’ plan
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2019 March 13 - 19 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Japan can be urged to pay 2 trillion yen for USFJ under Trump’s ‘Cost Plus 50’ plan

March 13, 2019

The Bloomberg news agency recently reported that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering having U.S. allies, including Japan and Germany, pay 150% of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in their countries. This report regarding Trump’s “Cost Plus 50” plan has sent shock waves through Japan.

JCP Miyamoto: It’s ridiculous and unreasonable

When Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Miyamoto Toru brought up the Bloomberg’s news report at a House of Representatives Security Committee meeting on March 12, he heard surprised murmurs even among ruling block Dietmembers on the floor. Miyamoto asked the government what it thinks of Trump’s plan, saying, “It’s ridiculous and unreasonable.”

Japan has been by far the most generous ally of the U.S. in terms of cost-sharing. Currently, Tokyo pays 800 billion yen a year for the costs related to U.S. forces in Japan. The 800 billion yen includes the so-called “sympathy budget” aimed at shouldering the labor costs of Japanese civilian workers at U.S. bases and construction costs of facilities on U.S. bases in Japan.

With more than 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, if the Japanese government gives in to the U.S demand to pay the entire stationing costs and a 50% premium, it will have to expend as much as two trillion yen per year, according to an Akahata estimate.

This estimate is shocking, but it should not be easily dismissed as unrealistic. President Trump during his presidential campaign put forward an idea that Japan and other U.S. allies should pay all the costs necessary to station U.S. troops in their countries. After assuming office, Trump persistently urged NATO countries to use at least two percent of their GDPs on military spending.

In the Washington-Seoul talks concerning the Special Measures Agreement on the sharing of security costs, the U.S. side reportedly requested the South Korea side to double its contribution. According to Bloomberg, President Trump in a note that reads “We want cost plus 50,” instructed presidential assistant John Bolton to push the South Korea government.

These moves by the U.S. president are based on his “America First” policy. In addition, these reflect the fact that it is becoming nearly impossible for the U.S. to play a role as “the world’s policeman” and maintain its military bases across the globe under its forward deployment strategy.

What the U.S. should actually do is to remove all of its overseas military bases which are criticized for infringing host nations’ sovereignty and as being strongholds to engage in wars of intervention. However, the U.S. intends to take advantage of allies’ security dependence on U.S. forces. Trump seeks to siphon off more money from U.S. base-hosting countries by arguing that they should pay all the stationing costs as well as a 50% premium under his “Pay more money, or our troops will be withdrawn” tactic.

Discount offer in exchange for greater cooperation with US

It is reported that President Trump employs a tricky mechanism. The U.S. Department of Defense was told to calculate the amount of discounts to be offered to countries whose policies align closely with the U.S. By demanding the payment of a preposterous 150% of the full stationing costs, Trump seeks to pressure allies to be more cooperative and would then offer a discount in exchange.

It is also said that the U.S. wants to have its allies shoulder costs that they have not paid in the past, such as the salaries of U.S. troops and the cost of port visits of airport carriers and submarines.

If facing such U.S. pressure and tactics, the Abe government could give in and grant concessions.

Asked by the press about the Bloomberg report, Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi on March 12 said, “Japan already shoulders a fairly large amount of the stationing costs. Given the severity of Japan’s financial conditions, we will work to clarify our position through negotiations.”

Iwaya’s remark should not be taken at face value. Japan has a long history of making submissive concessions to the U.S. Tokyo in the past decided to pay the “sympathy budget”, which is not required in the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, and costs for realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. Furthermore, the Abe government made an about-face and accepted Trump’s demand to buy the Aegis Ashore system and other U.S.-made weapons. With the current special agreement on the “sympathy budget” expiring in March 2021, negotiations for a renewal will be very tough for the Japanese government.

JCP Miyamoto in the Lower House Security Committee meeting pointed out, “As a reason for introducing the ‘sympathy budget’, the government at that time said that it needs to be sympathetic to the U.S. because it is suffering from the strong yen and a difficult financial condition. However, Japan now is in an even more difficult situation than that of the U.S. at that time” He stressed, “The government should reject U.S. demands for more financial support for the stationing of U.S. military.”

Japan can be urged to pay 2 trillion yen for US military in Japan

If Japan accepts the “Cost Plus 50” plan, how much money will Japan have to pay in total for sake of the U.S. military? In 2018, the Japanese government paid 581 billion yen for the U.S. military’s stationing costs, including the sympathy budget and state subsidies to base-hosting municipalities. On the other hand, concerning the year 2018, there is no data available to determine the amount of spending by the U.S. side for its troops in Japan. The U.S. in 2010 used 5.3 billion dollars to the same effect, which is 588.3 billion yen at today’s exchange rate of 111 yen to the dollar.

If the expense of the U.S. side remains basically unchanged, the total amount of money the U.S. and Japan used in 2018 to maintain U.S. troops in Japan is 1.2 trillion yen. With a 50% premium, the amount exceeds 1.8 trillion yen.

In addition, the Japanese government pays more than 200 billion yen for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, such as the construction of a U.S. base in Okinawa’s Henoko. In total, Japan’s payment will reach two trillion yen.
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