Vote cuts term of U.S. force budget

A House of Councilors plenary session approved Wednesday a new Japan-U.S. agreement that takes effect in April on Japan’s host-nation support for U.S. forces stationed in the country.

With the approval, by majority vote, the period of the bilateral accord will be shortened to two years from the previous pact’s five years to make it easier for Tokyo to press Washington to reduce budget requests amid fiscal constraints.

The shorter term of the bilateral Special Measures Agreement also stems from the likelihood of Japan’s costs increasing due to a planned realignment of U.S forces.

Tokyo began sharing the costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan in fiscal 1978. The accord has since been renewed every five years.

It stipulates the kinds of costs Japan covers and for what time period, with the requested amounts included in the annual budgets of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency.

The host-nation support for U.S. forces involves costs for providing facilities, labor force, utilities and relocation of training sites.

The framework of cost items the new agreement covers remains unchanged.

Expenditures for the support for fiscal 2006, which begins Saturday, are down 2.2 percent from the current fiscal year to 232.6 billion yen.