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Japan set to meet U.S. request to shoulder more costs for hosting troops

Japan is preparing to meet a request by the United States to shoulder more costs for hosting American troops from fiscal 2022, with the two sides possibly reaching an agreement next month, government sources said Wednesday.

Japan has asked the United States to consider using the increase in Tokyo’s contribution to fund expenses such as the maintenance of facilities used jointly by the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, rather than covering utilities at U.S. bases as before.

The Japanese government believes that such financial contribution from Tokyo will help strengthen the long-standing security alliance and make it easier to win public support.

For the current fiscal year through March, Japan will shoulder ¥201.7 billion ($1.76 billion) in so-called host nation support, which includes utilities, wages for Japanese staff and training relocation costs.

The increased contribution requested by the United States has not been disclosed. But the amount now under consideration will likely not be as much as what was being asked for by the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a Japanese diplomatic source.

“Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will make a final decision,” the source said.

To stipulate that Japan’s increased contribution be appropriated for joint training and other activities, the government will consider adding a clause in the agreement, which will remain in effect for five years through fiscal 2026, according to the sources.

In negotiations, the United States is believed to have cited the importance of its military presence in the region, in the face of China’s military expansion and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, as reasons for Japan to increase its burden.

Japan has said it wants the United States to understand that Tokyo cannot massively increase its spending due to its strained finances.

The two allies had working-level talks in early August in Washington before officially beginning full-fledged negotiations. Japan is aiming to strike a deal on the issue before the Cabinet approves the budget for fiscal 2022 in late December.

An idea has been floated to have Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi sign the agreement during a meeting involving the two allies’ defense and foreign ministers, according to the sources. The next round of the so-called two-plus-two talks was expected to be held within the year but could be delayed until early 2022.

Bilateral cost-sharing agreements are usually signed to cover a five-year term.

But for fiscal 2021, Japan and the United States settled for a one-year extension of a five-year pact that expired in March 2021, as their negotiations were affected by the transition of power in Washington from Trump to current President Joe Biden.

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