World / Politics

'We won't do cost plus 50,' Pentagon chief says, denying Trump plan for fivefold hike in Japan base costs

Kyodo

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday denied news reports that Washington is considering demanding that Japan and other allies pay significantly higher costs for the stationing of American troops on their soil.

Reports had said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was floating the controversial idea to push allies to pay the full cost of U.S. forces’ presence plus an additional 50 percent in a so-called “cost plus 50” formula.

“We won’t do cost plus 50 percent,” Shanahan said at a congressional hearing, calling the reports “erroneous.”

“We’re not going to run a business and we’re not going to run a charity,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The important part is that people pay their fair share,” Shanahan said. But he added that compensation comes in many forms, such as providing support for war efforts in Afghanistan, for example.

According to multiple reports, the administration is drafting fresh demands that Japan and Germany — and eventually other countries hosting U.S. troops — pay in line with the envisaged formula for the privilege of having them there.

The new formula could mean that the United States will be asking such countries to pay at least five times more than they do now, they said.

However, some lawmakers from Trump’s Republican Party oppose the idea, saying the United States benefits from cooperation with allies and the foreign bases help ensure freedom, prosperity and security around the world.

“The notion that we are somehow now going to change them cost plus 50 is really … it’s wrongheaded and it would be devastating to the security of the nation and our allies,” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming told an NBC program on Sunday.

Cheney said the United States “should not look at this as though somehow we need to charge them rent or for the privilege of having our forces there” because having U.S. troops based in other countries “does us a huge benefit as well.”

Speaking to reporters Monday in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan and the United States share the cost of stationing American forces in Japan “appropriately.”

“The U.S. government highly values Japan’s share in the stationing cost,” Suga said.

As of fiscal 2015, Japan was shouldering 86.4 percent of the cost of stationing American troops in the country, according to Japanese Defense Ministry calculations.

Given that the current cost-sharing agreement is valid until March 2021, Suga said the two governments have yet to start negotiations for a new accord.