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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 April 16 - 22  > Japan paying highway tolls for U.S. soldiers’ visits to Tokyo Disney Resort
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2008 April 16 - 22 [US FORCES]

Japan paying highway tolls for U.S. soldiers’ visits to Tokyo Disney Resort

April 18, 2008
Japan pays nearly 900 million yen every year for highway tolls for U.S. military personnel (and their families) even when they are touring for leisure.

This was revealed by Japanese Communist Party representative Inoue Satoshi at the House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on April 17 based on a document made available to him by the Ministry of Defense.

Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Status of U.S. Forces in Japan Agreement (SOFA) provides that “U.S. vessels and aircraft for official purposes shall be accorded access to any port or airport of Japan free from toll or landing charges.”

U.S. servicemen can use expressways without paying the tolls if they show the expressway pass issued by the U.S. military authorities. The Japanese government pays for the tolls. In FY2007, Japan paid about 880 million yen in highway tolls for U.S. forces.

Under SOFA, Japan’s payment for such U.S. travel is limited to “official uses.”

Inoue cited a pamphlet about a “Yokota Tour” that takes U.S. personnel to various tourist spots, including Tokyo Disney Resort. These are tours organized by the U.S. Yokota Air Base in Tokyo for pleasure.

Responding to Inoue’s question, Ministry of Defense Provincial Cooperation Office Director Jibiki Yoshiyuki said, “There is no problem about this payment.”

Inoue also pointed out that free rent-a-car tickets are available to personnel at the Yokota base. Citing the Yokota base website that states, “Japan, our host nation, is rich in history and culture. Reservations fill up fast during peak holidays and summer vacations so be sure to book your trip as soon as possible” (http://www.374th –services.org/page.php?126).

“This shows that U.S. soldiers can go anywhere free of charge for their private purposes. How can the government use tax money in this manner?” Inoue asked.

Foreign Minister Komura Masahiko said that he will refer the matter to the U.S. side and make sure that they really are for “official purposes.”

* * *

The Ministry of Defense document shows that in the 18 years since FY1990, Japan has paid a total of about 14.9 billion yen for U.S. forces in Japan for their use of toll roads, and harbor and civil airport charges.

In FY 2008, Japan will use huge amounts of tax money in the so-called “sympathy budget” for the U.S. Forces in Japan amounting to 208.3 billion yen. It will also spend 18 billion yen to implement Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) plans to relocate U.S. military bases just within Okinawa Island; and 52.1 billion yen on the ongoing U.S. military realignment in Japan.
- Akahata, April 18, 2008
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