Tokyo, Washington sign pact to continue Japan’s support for U.S. military bases

Kyodo

Japan and the United States on Friday signed an agreement under which Tokyo will maintain the budget to host U.S. forces over the next five fiscal years from April amid security challenges posed by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“The presence of U.S. forces in Japan is indispensable for the security of Japan and for the peace and security of the region,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at the signing ceremony with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo.

“As we have seen in North Korea’s nuclear test (earlier this month), the security environment is becoming increasingly severe and the importance of U.S. forces in Japan is greatly increasing,” Kishida said, adding that the support for U.S. forces is “strategically important.”

The two countries confirmed in mid-December that Japan will maintain its financial support for U.S. forces stationed in the country at the current level of around ¥190 billion annually.

The support over the coming five years is estimated to total some ¥946.5 billion, compared with ¥933.2 billion for the preceding five years.

“The agreement will ensure that U.S. forces will maintain the highest operational readiness” and “most comprehensive training in fulfilling our treaty obligations to Japan,” Kennedy said.

“The U.S. and Japan alliance has never been stronger in all its dimensions,” she said. “Today’s signing is further evidence of that.”

The so-called host-nation support, or HNS, covers various expenses such as salaries for workers and utilities at U.S. military facilities and is shouldered voluntarily by Japan.

The agreed figures signal Japan’s compromise in talks with the United States. While Tokyo had sought a major reduction in HNS due to its strained finances, Washington wanted more in light of its policy of “rebalancing” to Asia amid severe security environments.

The government aims to secure Diet approval of the new agreement before the current HNS accord expires at the end of March.