The government plans to slash defense spending to come up with the 2.71 trillion yen that Japan will need to shoulder the cost of realigning the U.S. military presence here, according to sources.
The defense budget has shrunk for four consecutive years and now stands at 4.81 trillion yen, not including realignment-related expenses.
The sources said that cutting back on defense spending will be necessary to win public support for the realignment plans.
Japan has agreed to pay $6.09 billion, or about 700 billion yen, as its share of the cost to move 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa, and another 2 trillion yen for other realignment-related expenditures over the next 10 years.
Measures being considered are reducing frontline equipment, including tanks and heavy artillery, further streamlining personnel in all three branches of the Self-Defense Forces under a newly introduced unified command and re-examining the Defense Agency’s 100 billion yen reserve funds, the sources said.
The government is considering revising the 24.24 trillion yen five-year budget stipulated under the current Midterm Defense Program, which began last April.
It also plans to ask the U.S. for an overhaul of Japan’s payments to support hosting U.S. forces, including abolishing the practice of Tokyo paying the utility bills for bases. No other nation hosting U.S. military facilities pays for utilities.
The defense budget in recent years already reflected cuts in personnel and heavy armor to fund a missile defense shield, which is expected to cost between 800 billion yen and 1 trillion yen.
Tokyo and Washington are expected early next month to finalize a plan for the realignment of U.S. bases and forces in Japan, which will be part of a U.S. effort at global realignment.
Sunday in Washington, the two sides agreed on sharing the cost for the Guam relocation.