• Kyodo

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A senior U.S. State Department official said Friday that Japan is among the countries that should contribute greater funding to its security alliance with Washington, saying Tokyo is “not a dependent” but an “ally.”

The remarks by Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, came after the U.S. state and defense secretaries stirred controversy with a joint op-ed in which they pushed South Korea to pay a greater share of the costs associated with hosting U.S. troops. The commentary, published last week in The Wall Street Journal, was titled “South Korea is an ally, not a dependent.”

Knapper said at a news conference in Washington that he cannot say whether the contents of the op-ed specifically apply to the upcoming bilateral negotiations with Japan over so-called host-nation support.

But he said “clearly Japan is not a dependent of the United States,” apparently emphasizing that the bilateral relationship over security issues should be equal.

“As President (Donald) Trump has indicated many times, we believe our allies can and should do more. And this applies not just to Korea, but other allies around the world. And I would say this includes Japan,” he added.

In the op-ed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said “South Korea bears no more than one-third of the costs most directly associated with the stationing of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula” and that “South Korea’s share is shrinking” as the costs rise amid increasing challenges in the region.

The article has drawn criticism even from inside the United States, with The Washington Post writing that it caused “unease in Seoul because of its implication that South Korea was acting more like a ‘dependent’ than an ‘ally’ — conversations that typically happen behind closed doors rather than in a national newspaper.”

South Korea has been urged to pay about five times more than last year. The cost-sharing agreement between Washington and Seoul expired at the end of last year without a new official deal, and negotiations continue.

Japan’s host-nation support, which totals nearly ¥200 billion ($1.8 billion) annually, covers the costs for base workers, utilities and other items. The current five-year payment agreement is set to expire after March 2021.

Knapper did not say exactly when the negotiations with Japan will start this year, only noting that they typically “last several months.”

Under the Japan-U.S. security treaty around 54,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan. South Korea hosts about 28,500 U.S. troops.

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