Japan and the United States have been holding negotiations over sharing of the cost to relocate U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam. In the negotiations held in Washington earlier this month, the two parties could not overcome their differences. A followup round of negotiations held in Tokyo last week produced no results. Another round is planned this week. Even if they come to an agreement, however, the Japanese government must fully explain to the people the details of not only the final agreement but also of the negotiations leading up to it. The people need such detailed information because the amount of money Japan will pay for the relocation will not be small and because there are no legal foundations for such a payment — even in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty or the Status of Forces Agreement.
Japan and the U.S. have agreed on the relocation as a means of reducing the military burden on Okinawa, where, in terms of area, 75 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated. The relocation is part of the U.S. plan to realign its military bases in Japan to reduce burdens on local communities and to enhance its capability to deal with military contingencies. The headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and about 8,000 personnel — although the final total is not known at this point — will be moved to Guam, according to explanations by the Japanese and U.S. governments. If dependents are included, about 17,000 people will move to Guam. The relocation will help reduce the burden on Okinawa and, therefore, should be implemented as soon as possible.
A problem has cropped up, however. The U.S. estimates that the relocation will cost $10 billion (about 1.17 trillion yen) and has requested that Japan shoulder 75 percent of the cost. The request sounds extraordinary. Having a foreign host government pay for the cost of relocating a U.S. military facility and its personnel to U.S. territories is almost unheard of. In the case of relocation of U.S. forces from Germany to the U.S., the U.S. is reportedly shouldering the entire cost. At one point, it was reported that Washington’s estimate for the Guam relocation plan was about $4 billion. It is only natural that the huge increase in the estimate to $10 billion should raise suspicions.
Describing the cost as a “relocation expense” is misleading in the first place because it is reported that the money from Japan is likely to be used for building new headquarters and combat exercise facilities, and such infrastructure as a school for dependents, a hospital and roads. If this is the case, the Japanese government would be paying not only for the relocation of marines but also for building military-related facilities for the U.S. Marine Corps in U.S. territories. It is only logical to ask whether using Japanese tax money for this kind of purpose can be allowed under Japan’s existing laws, including the Constitution.
It could be argued that since the Japanese side asked for a reduction of the military burden on Okinawa, and the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam is a means to achieve it, for Japan to shoulder part of the relocation cost would not be unreasonable. The U.S. can also argue that since the marines relocated to Guam would be used to defend Japan if such an action is required in a military emergency, Japan should pay for a large part of the relocation cost. At the same time, however, the relocation of the marines to Guam is in line with Washington’s strategic policy and in the interest of the U.S. The October 2005 interim report on the U.S. forces’ realignment in Japan says that as part of its global posture realignment effort, which includes a strengthening of its force structure in the Pacific, the U.S. is increasing the U.S. Marine Corps’ crisis-response capabilities and redistributing those capabilities among Hawaii, Guam and Okinawa. Given this fact, Japan cannot and should not accept the U.S. request in its entirety.
In the negotiations in Washington, Japan reportedly offered loans of about $3 billion to be provided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a government-affiliated financial institution. If the Japanese government agrees to pay for the relocation out of its treasury coffer in addition to these loans, it will need to write a new law to justify the use of tax money for the relocation purpose — almost an ex post facto justification.
In fiscal 1978, Japan started an exceptional host-nation support for the U.S. military by paying part of the salaries of Japanese workers on U.S. military bases. Host-nation support has since been expanded to cover most salaries, the repair and maintenance of military housing, on-base utility bills and the costs of moving U.S. troops on drills. The support for fiscal 2005 amounted to 237.8 billion yen. Japan has already been extremely generous in its support of the U.S. military — all the more reason why once Japan and the U.S. reach an agreement, the government owes the people a full explanation.
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