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HOME  > Past issues  > 2010 December 22 - 2011 January 4  > ‘Sympathy budget’: Japan’s extraordinary generosity to US forces
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2010 December 22 - 2011 January 4 TOP3 [FINANCE]

‘Sympathy budget’: Japan’s extraordinary generosity to US forces

December 22, 2010
The Democratic Party of Japan-led government announced on December 14 that it agreed with the U.S. government to conclude a new special agreement in order to maintain about 190 billion yen in the annual “sympathy budget” for the stationing of the U.S. forces in Japan. The agreement will be signed in January and be effective for five years. Under the new arrangement, a total of nearly one trillion yen of Japanese citizens’ tax money will be poured into the coffers of the U.S. military in Japan. This article points out how absurdly generous the Japanese government is to U.S. servicemen with the use of the “sympathy budget.”

Facility maintenance fees

From FY 1979 to FY 2010, about 2.17 trillion yen has been used to build 12,900 facilities for the U.S. forces, covering everything and anything from military installations such as blast-proof shelters for fighter jets and berths for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to housing, schools, and hospitals.

The number of housing units built for U.S. personnel totaled 11,383, costing 551 billion yen. Even the smallest units measure 101 square meters (two-bedroom condominium). The largest ones are 234 square-meter houses for commanders with four bedrooms.

In NATO countries, housing units for U.S. servicemen and their families are excluded from facilities that host nations are required to build. Japan stands out with its “sympathy” for the comfort of U.S. forces.

It is also surprising to see the well-equipped schools for children on U.S. bases. For instance, the “Ryukyu Middle School” was built in 2008 within the U.S. Kadena base of Okinawa for about 600 students. Spending 4 billion yen for construction, it has a 400-meter track field, basketball court, soccer field, and softball field.

The construction cost was more than twice the amount for building a public middle school for 600 students (1.64 billion yen). Even Okinawan Governor Nakaima admitted, “Their facilities are too fancy. Comparing them with public schools in the prefecture, I have a strong feeling of uneasiness” (in the plenary session of the prefectural assembly on September 30, 2008).

Labor costs include wages for bartenders and animal caretakers

Japanese employees at U.S bases are assigned to jobs serving U.S. military personnel, for example, as bartenders, golf course managers, pleasure craft operators, and animal caretakers.

The Kan administration agreed with the U.S. administrators to reduce personnel costs by cutting 430 jobs affecting about10 percent of Japanese workers at leisure facilities, including bars and golf courses, within the bases. As of the end of 2006, a total of 5,568 Japanese work in the recreation facilities on the U.S. bases (Mainichi Shimbun, March 14, 2008).

Japan pays for U.S. military households’ utility bills

The special Japan-U.S. agreement on the “sympathy budget” states that the Japanese government is required to cover the cost of utilities for official uses only. However, Japan also pays the utilities costs for U.S. households on the U.S. bases.

At a House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting on March 15, 2000, then Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Tachiki Hiroshi revealed that at a U.S. forces housing complex at the Ikego district of Kanagawa Prefecture, expenses for utilities per house amounted to 600,000 yen a year.

Only Japan pays for training relocation

Since the night landing practice (NLP) at the U.S. Atsugi Base in Kanagawa Prefecture was relocated to the distant island of Iwo-jima, the Japanese government has paid the cost for flights of carrier-borne aircraft, the transport of military personnel and goods, provision of food, and maintenance of accommodations. At a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on March 26, 2008, Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry Nishimiya Shin’ichi admitted, “There is no other nation paying training relocation costs for U.S. forces.”

8.8 million yen in tax money per U.S. soldier used

The amount that Japan pays as host nation support for the United States is larger than that of all other 26 U.S. allies combined. This was revealed in a U.S. government report.

“The 2004 Allied Contributions to the Common Defense (U.S. Department of Defense)” compared the contributions of 27 allied nations, including Japan.

The report showed that Japan paid the largest amount (4.41134 billion dollars or about 366 billion yen) for the stationing of U.S. forces. This was twice the amount paid by Germany, which ranked second, and 1.8 times the total amount paid by 18 member states of NATO, accounting for 53 percent of the total amount of support paid by 27 allied nations. The Japanese government used about 8.8 million yen (106,000 dollars) in tax money per U.S. soldier to cover the cost of stationing the U.S. forces in Japan.

The Japanese government shares 75 percent of the cost for the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan by generously using people’s tax money. In this regard as well, Japan ranked at the top among 27 allied nations.
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