National / Politics

Japan says U.S. hasn't requested more money to host American troops

REUTERS, STAFF REPORT

The United States has not asked Tokyo to pay more to keep its troops in the country, Japan’s defense minister said Tuesday, after former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his tell-all memoir that he had conveyed President Donald Trump’s demand for an $8 billion annual payment.

“Negotiations over the cost of hosting (American troops) have not started yet,” Defense Minister Taro Kono told a regular news conference. “The Japanese government has not received any request from the United States with regard to this issue.”

The current agreement that covers the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan expires in March 2021.

Kono was asked about Bolton’s upcoming book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” in which he writes that he relayed Trump’s request to a senior Japanese government official for the $8 billion payment during a trip to Japan last July. The memoir was released Tuesday.

Asked whether he thought the current cost of hosting the U.S. military was appropriate, Kono said: “The Japan-U.S. alliance is a public asset that contributes to this region’s peace and stability. An arrangement that is lucrative for one side won’t last long.”

Kono said he could not comment specifically on what Bolton had written since he had been unsuccessful so far in getting a copy of the book.

Asked about claims in Bolton’s book that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been bamboozled by Trump into acting as a mediator during a visit to Iran last year only to have the U.S. leader use the failure as leverage for his real goal — to get Japan to buy more American farm products — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, denied this was the case.

“We have worked closely with our ally the United States on reducing tensions and maintaining stability in the Middle East, including Iran,” Suga told a news conference Tuesday. “And as for the U.S.-Japan trade agreement, we believe it’s a win-win and balanced agreement for both Japan and the United States. Thus, it’s not appropriate to say the U.S. misled (Japan).”

Trump allegedly used his close ties with Abe to his advantage, urging the Japanese leader to help cool rising tensions between Washington and Tehran despite being well aware that the odds of success were slim, according to Bolton. After the unsuccessful visit, Trump said what he had really wanted was for Japan buy more U.S. farm products.

Just a month later, the two leaders agreed on a bilateral trade deal intended to slash tariffs on farm and industrial products.

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