Washington – The U.S. government plans to appoint Donna Welton, a seasoned diplomat with vast experience in Japan, to lead negotiations over the costs of stationing U.S. forces in the Asian country, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.
Welton, who has served as political minister-counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Japan and is known for her expertise on Japanese art, will succeed James DeHart as senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements at the U.S. State Department, they said.
DeHart has been the chief negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea, but left the post in July. If he had remained, he was expected to have spearheaded the negotiations with Japan, which are likely to start in the fall at the earliest.
The United States is expected to pressure Japan to increase its financial contribution as seen in the ongoing negotiations with South Korea, reflecting U.S. President Donald Trump’s view that nations should pay more of the costs associated with hosting U.S. troops.
A Japanese government source said that the appointment of Welton will be a positive factor for Japan in the negotiations, given that she recognizes the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
But the source added, “In the end, it is up to how Trump thinks about the issue.”
Japan’s so-called host-nation support, which totals nearly ¥200 billion ($1.9 billion) annually, covers costs for base workers, utilities and other expenses. The current five-year payment agreement is set to expire at the end of March 2021.
Under the Japan-U.S. security treaty, about 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed at bases in Japan that serve as a hub for forward-deployed forces.
According to the U.S. State Department, Welton began her career with the U.S. Information Agency in 1984. The agency was integrated into the department in 1999.
In Japan, she served in public diplomacy positions in Tokyo, Nagoya and as the consul general in Sapporo and was minister-counselor for political affairs from 2013 to 2015. She has also been the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Finland.
She speaks Japanese fluently and has experience working as a curator of Japanese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.