Japan to shoulder more of costs for hosting U.S. military forces

Japan has decided to accept a U.S. request to pay more for hosting its military forces from fiscal 2022, diplomatic sources said Sunday.

The two countries held working-level negotiations in Washington from late November through early this month.

The government is expected to reach an agreement on the increase with the United States before Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet decides on a draft budget for the fiscal year starting in April later this month, the sources said.

The Japanese government is believed to have determined that a certain amount of increase in so-called host nation support is inevitable in light of the need to boost their long-standing security alliance. U.S. forces are currently mobilizing their most advanced hardware in the region to address China’s rapid military expansion.

The next focus will be on the extent of the hike, given that the cost for basing American troops in Japan is also rising.

For the current fiscal year through March, the support to cover costs, such as utilities and wages for Japanese staff at U.S. military bases, was budgeted at ¥201.7 billion ($1.79 billion).

Japan had sought to minimize any increase in the assistance due to its strained finances, while Washington, according to the sources, had called on Tokyo to foot more of the cost noting the need for the U.S. forces to deal with China.

Tokyo had asked Washington in their talks to reduce the amount of financial contribution for utility costs as any increase in this area would not directly contribute to beefing up U.S. deterrence in the region, making it difficult to win public support, the sources said.

Japan had claimed instead the United States should use the increase in Tokyo’s contribution for funding expenses such as the maintenance of facilities used together by the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military and their joint exercises, the sources said.

Cost-sharing agreements between Japan and the United States are usually signed to cover five-year terms.

But for fiscal 2021, the two countries settled for a one-year extension of a five-year pact that expired in March 2021, as their talks were affected by the transition of power in Washington to President Joe Biden from his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Following the agreement in December, Japan and the United States are likely to sign a special accord on host nation support next month when they hold a meeting involving their defense and foreign ministers, according to the sources.

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