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Japan is planning to provide over ¥1 trillion in total under its Host Nation Support program for U.S. forces in Japan through the five years from fiscal 2022, multiple Japanese government sources have said.

The amount will mark an increase from around ¥980 billion shouldered by the Japanese government to host the U.S. bases and troops in Japan between fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2020.

The government will include related expenses in its draft budget for fiscal 2022, which starts in April, and is expected to receive Cabinet approval later this month.

Many experts have started to suggest that China may beef up its military capabilities on the back of rapid economic growth and could overtake the United States in terms of military strength in the Western Pacific.

The Japanese government has decided that it is left with no choice but to increase its financial burden under the program in order to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the sources said Wednesday.

Japan and the United States are currently working to hold a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers in Washington early next month.

The two sides are also considering having Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sign a new special agreement on the expenses for U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

While Japan's burden for lighting, heating and water utility costs at U.S. military bases will be reduced, Japan will shoulder more of expenses that will lead to a further strengthening of the bilateral alliance, including those for joint drills by Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, according to the sources.

The Japanese government hopes to present a host nation support agreement that will gain the understanding of the people.

Japan covers salaries paid to staff working at U.S. military bases in the country, lighting, heating and water utility costs, maintenance costs for base facilities and other expenses.

While the Japanese and U.S. governments had reviewed the program every five years, the existing agreement, which was set to expire at the end of fiscal 2020, was extended for one year on a provisional basis due to the U.S. presidential election.

The two nations have been negotiating a new agreement.

Members of the Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps meet prior to their joint drill in Miyagi Prefecture on Tuesday. | KYODO
Members of the Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps meet prior to their joint drill in Miyagi Prefecture on Tuesday. | KYODO

As part of the two countries' efforts to beef up the alliance, the Ground Self-Defense Force unveiled a large-scale joint exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps in Miyagi Prefecture on Wednesday.

The drill, dubbed Resolute Dragon 21, at the Ojojihara training site in the northeastern Japan prefecture, marked their first joint exercise based on the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, or EABO, concept for the defense of remote islands.

"We want to promote understanding of EABO and make use of the problems that emerge in the drill to strengthen coordination," said Yoshio Furihata, a GSDF colonel who led his unit in the drill.

The joint exercise was conducted under the scenario that Japanese and U.S. units jointly fire at a third country's vessel approaching a remote island.

On Wednesday, the Japanese and U.S. units set up a joint coordination center to share information and make arrangements and confirmed the chain of command.

They checked the procedures for sharing targets and concentrating fire by conveying information obtained mainly from U.S. reconnaissance satellites and SDF radars to the U.S. military's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, unit in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Aomori and the GSDF's surface-to-ship missile unit.

Resolute Dragon brought together 10 U.S. Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a record high for a joint drill conducted in Japan.

Drills are scheduled to transport and train Japanese and U.S. troops.

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