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DEFENSE DOLLARS

Trump remarks prompt debate over cost of Japan-U.S. defense ties

by

Staff Writer

Donald Trump, who is now expected to be the Republican candidate for U.S. president, has made a number of disturbing remarks.

Particularly troubling to Japanese officials is his threat to shake up the Japan-U.S. military alliance.

Trump has argued Japan should pay all the costs of stationing U.S. forces in the country, saying he would otherwise consider withdrawing the U.S. military and allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

But how much exactly is the U.S. spending on U.S. forces in Japan? And is Trump’s argument fair? Following are questions and answers on the issue:

How much of the cost of U.S. forces in Japan is borne by the U.S., and how much is spent by Japan?

According to the 2017 Operation and Maintenance Overview by the Office of the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense, the direct cost of stationing U.S. forces in Japan is estimated at $5.47 billion (¥595 billion) for fiscal 2016, which includes personnel, operations, maintenance, construction and family housing.

In addition, according to the Defense Ministry, Japan is set to pay ¥192 billion to support U.S. forces in fiscal 2016, including most of the utility charges at U.S. bases and facilities in Japan, as well as the wages of Japanese employees.

In addition, Japan pays various other costs related to the U.S. forces, which totaled ¥364.6 billion ($3.35 billion) for the same fiscal year. This includes ¥176.6 billion for realigning the U.S. military in Japan, including costs to transfer Okinawa-based U.S. Marines to Guam and relocate forces within Japan, ¥98.8 billion for facility rent and ¥57 billion to improve the living environment in areas surrounding U.S. bases.

If all those costs are included, the share of Japan’s financial burden is calculated at 48.3 percent.

Trump has argued the U.S. would be “better off” if Japan and South Korea protected themselves. Is it true?

Eliminating U.S. defense budgets for Japan and South Korea alone would probably not greatly help, given the massive size of the Pentagon’s total defense budget.

According to the Office of U.S. Under Secretary of Defense, the total overseas costs of U.S. military forces is $19.32 billion for fiscal 2016, 65.7 percent of which is spent on the U.S. military in Japan, Germany and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the total U.S. defense budget is $580.3 billion for the same fiscal year.

Is Japan shouldering much larger financial burdens than other U.S. allies?

Probably yes, although no updated data for comparison are available.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Defense published an annual report titled Allied Contributions to the Common Defense. According to the 2004 report, in 2002 Japan provided direct support of $3.2 billion and indirect support worth $1.18 billion for the U.S. military in Japan, offsetting as much as 74.5 percent of the total costs of U.S. forces in the country.

This ratio was the highest among major allied nations of the U.S. cited by the report.

The indirect costs included forgone rents and revenues, such as rents on government-owned land and facilities occupied or used by U.S. forces and tax concessions or customs duties waived by the host nation.

Why are U.S. forces in Japan in the first place?

The U.S. has stationed its forces in Japan for years, not just to defend the country but also for its own strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

After Japan’s surrender in World War II in 1945, the U.S. occupied Japan until April 1952.

During the Occupation, the U.S. demilitarized Japan and drafted the postwar war-renouncing Constitution, which prohibited Japan from possessing a military.

In 1951, the two countries concluded the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which allowed the U.S. to retain its bases and military in Japan beyond 1952, when Japan would regain full sovereignty to end the postwar Occupation.

In 1960, the treaty was revised to oblige the U.S. to defend Japan if the country is attacked. In return, the accord obliged Japan to allow the U.S. to use land, air space and military bases in Japan “for the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East.”

During the Cold War years, the U.S. used its bases in Japan as key footholds to send out numerous military aircraft and ships during the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Even after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. bases in Japan have dispatched troops and aircraft for operations in the Middle East.

More recently, U.S. President Barack Obama has adopted a “rebalancing” policy to maintain a strong U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region to protect U.S. interests in the area. Japanese bases are considered a key piece of this policy.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” read a 2013 report of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Trump has argued the security treaty obliges the U.S. to defend Japan if the country is attacked, but Japan is not obliged to defend the U.S. Is this fair?

Many experts say the treaty is not purely one-sided because Japan is obliged to allow the U.S. forces to use vast land, airspace and military facilities in Japan that serve as key strategic interests for the U.S.

In addition, it is the U.S.-drafted postwar Constitution that legally prohibited Japan for years from using the right to collective self-defense, or the right to attack a third country assaulting an ally even if the country itself is not under attack.

Meanwhile, some right-leaning Japanese politicians, most notably Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, may agree with Trump to an extent. They have long been concerned that Japan-U.S. ties would be critically damaged if the Self-Defense Forces did not try to defend the U.S. in the case of war.

Last year Abe changed the long-standing government interpretation of the Constitution and thereby partially eased the long-held ban on collective self-defense.

According to Abe’s constitutional interpretation, Japan is now allowed to attack a country attacking the U.S. military if Japan’s own “survival” is at stake.

The Diet, controlled by Abe’s ruling coalition, has enacted a set of new laws to expand the SDF’s missions based on this interpretation.

Abe’s constitutional interpretation and the laws remain contentious among the Japanese public.