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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 January 22 - 28  > No need to continue Japan’s ‘sympathetic’ financial support to US military in Japan
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2020 January 22 - 28 [POLITICS]

No need to continue Japan’s ‘sympathetic’ financial support to US military in Japan

January 26, 2020

Akahata editorial

Defense Minister Kono Taro on January 21 said that Japan and the United States in early fall this year will start discussing a new special agreement on how much Japan will shoulder for the cost of stationing the U.S. military in Japan, with the current agreement expiring in March 2021. The U.S. Trump administration, which proclaims “America First”, has already begun pushing the Abe government to greatly increase its share of the costs. However, in the first place, the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement stipulates that the U.S. is obliged to pay the full amount of the costs of maintaining its military presence in Japan. In other words, Japan is not required by the SOFA to pay the costs. This financial expenditure, dubbed the “sympathy budget”, should be abolished, and to increase the payment is absolutely out of question.

Japan’s financial support to US military is larger than any other US ally

Concerning the stationing costs of the U.S. military in South Korea, Washington and Seoul are now holding negotiations. The Trump administration reportedly urged the Moon administration to pay five billion dollars (approximately 550 billion yen) in this regard this year, a fivefold increase from the previous year. The South Korea side rejected the demand and the two countries were unable to make an agreement in the latest talks held in Washington on January 14 and 15.

In a rare move, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on January 17 jointly submitted to the U.S. daily Wall Street Journal an article titled, “South Korea Is an Ally, Not a Dependent”, demanding that South Korea shoulder a much larger financial burden.

The Trump administration also insists that Japan should increase the “sympathy budget”. When the then assistant to the president John Bolton visited Japan in July last year, he demanded that Japan pay eight billion dollars (roughly 880 billion yen) a year for the stationing of the U.S. military in Japan, which is more than four times larger than the current payment level.

This U.S. insistence is based on Trump’s belief that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty is unfair to the U.S. President Trump often says, "Even if we are attacked, Japan will not have to help us at all" and "We are paying a lot of money" (to protect Japan).

However, the role of the U.S. military in Japan is not "Japan's protection". The U.S. military in Japan is a forward-based rapid deployment force and includes carrier strike groups which make sorties from Japan to carry out U.S. global strategy. The cost burden Japan shoulders to maintain the U.S. forces in Japan is outlandish compared to other U.S. allies.

Regarding the sympathy budget alone, the Abe government will allocate 199.3 billion yen in its budget draft for FY2020. It will budget 393 billion yen in total for the U.S. military, which includes the cost to realign the U.S. forces and to construct a new U.S. Marine Corps base in Nago City's Henoko in Okinawa (179.9 billion yen) as well as to relocate U.S. bases to other locations within Okinawa with the so-called Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee (SACO)-related expenditures (13.8 billion yen).

The former Administrative Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Japanese Ambassador to Washington, Murata Ryohei, stated that the Japanese government has been increasing funding for the U.S. military without having any clear policy because it one-sidedly believes that the country depends on the United States for security reasons (Memoires of Murata Ryohei, Vol.2, 2008). He also stated that the United States supposedly gives a helping hand to Japan's protection in its spare time in exchange for using Japanese soil and that this is what the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is all about (ibid). He concluded that essentially Japan is not under obligation to offer money for the stationing of the U.S. forces in Japan (ibid).

No need to conclude special agreement

In 1987, Japan reached a “special agreement” with the United States as a tentative, temporary, limited, and exceptional measure to introduce a “sympathy budget” allocation which is not mentioned in the SOFA. Already 33 years have passed since then and Japan has no need to conclude yet another agreement but needs to have a policy of siding with people's livelihoods, not with the U.S. forces.

Past related article:
> Japan can be urged to pay 2 trillion yen for USFJ under Trump’s ‘Cost Plus 50’ plan [March 13, 2019]
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