Japan and the United States have reached an agreement on how they will share the cost of relocating 8,000 U.S. Marines plus some 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam. Japan will shoulder 59 percent or $6.09 billion (710 billion yen) of the total $10.27 billion (1.2 trillion yen) cost.
Clinched Sunday between Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after hours of talks in Washington D.C., the agreement is a compromise. But it is a compromise that requires detailed explanations from the government.
The U.S. originally asked Japan to pay 75 percent of the costs of relocation, which will be carried out as part of the plan to realign U.S. military bases in Japan. Japan at first said it would offer about $3 billion in loans.
If the relocation is carried out, it will reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa, which accommodates 75 percent of the land area dedicated to U.S. military facilities in Japan. Mr. Rumsfeld said after the meeting with Mr. Nukaga, “We have come to an understanding that we both feel is in the best interest of our countries.”
But even at 59 percent of the cost, the amount that Japan must shoulder is huge. This is in addition to Japan’s already generous host-nation support, which in fiscal 2005 amounted to 237.8 billion yen. It is also unprecedented for Japan to pay for the construction of U.S. military-related facilities in U.S. territory as it agreed to do in the latest deal, although Japan paid about $13 billion to support multinational forces during the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
The government needs to explain first why the relocation costs so much money and then clarify how much will be used for which purpose. At present, there is no legal basis for the Japanese government’s paying for such a U.S. military relocation. The Diet is urged to carry out careful and detailed deliberations on a bill that the government will submit to justify the agreed payments. Lawmakers need to examine each component of the agreement in detail.
Under the latest deal, Japan’s contribution will be composed of three large divisions — $2.8 billion in grants, a $1.5 billion investment in a new special company to be set up to help implement the relocation plan, and $1.79 billion in loans, mainly through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, a government-affiliated financial institution. The $2.8 billion and $1.5 billion portions require a budgetary allocation. The $2.8 billion will not be used for facilities directly related to military training or entertainment facilities. Instead, it will be used for building barracks, administration buildings, schools, etc. This money will not be returned to Japan.
The U.S. side will build military training facilities, a runway, roads, etc. Investment in the special company and the loans will go mainly toward building residences for dependents of military personnel.
It has been reported that Japanese money will also be used to build a power-generation plant and a sewer system, with the explanation that the investment money and the loans will eventually be returned to Japan. But details about how the U.S. will return the money are not yet known. The Diet needs to clarify this matter.
It is said about 15,000 U.S. Marines are currently stationed in Okinawa. The relocation plan calls for moving the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and about 8,000 personnel with their dependents to Guam. The U.S. explains that, at present, there are no facilities in Guam that can accommodate this number of troops and dependents. That is why the U.S. called for Japanese financial assistance.
What is significant in the latest burden-sharing agreement is that a new military base town will be built inside U.S. territories with Japan shouldering more than half the cost — something that Japan has never done before.
Viewed in this way, it is all the more important that the Diet have the government clarify how and why it came to such an agreement with the U.S. and to sift through each expenditure item contained in the relocation plan agreement.
The largely vague process of negotiations that led to the latest deal should be clarified. It will also be important to establish a mechanism to ascertain whether the Japanese money spent under the agreement has been properly used.
Discontent already exists among the people and local governments concerned because they feel the U.S. military base realignment plan was imposed on them without prior consultations. If the government’s explanations about the latest deal on the Guam relocation plan is unconvincing, they will only do a disservice to the relationship between Japan and the U.S.
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