Asked about U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s urging on the campaign trail that Japan pay more for the U.S. forces stationed here, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said at a recent news conference that Japan pays enough for hosting the U.S. military.

Note, however, that Article 24 of SOFA, a rider to the Japan-U.S. security treaty, stipulates the U.S. will bear all expenditures necessary for the maintenance of U.S. Forces Japan without cost to Japan (Clause 1) while Japan will furnish bases and areas without cost to the U.S. (Clause 2).

But the reality is a real shambles. The U.S. has asked for and obtained a large amount of base maintenance cost it euphemistically calls “host nation support” since 1978, which will amount to ¥946.5 billion (or about $9 billion) for the next five years.

The U.S. Navy based in Yokosuka and the U.S. Marine units stationed in Okinawa are not for the defense of Japan, as generally believed, but are deployed there as part of the U.S. military’s global war strategy, as many pundits point out. We know bases in Okinawa were used with impunity as staging posts for overseas troop deployment in the Gulf and Iraq wars and, before the reversion, in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

So, I suggest Defense Minister Inada not just say that “Japan now pays enough for hosting U.S. forces” but tell them vocally and resolutely that Japan doesn’t have to pay any money at all for the upkeep of the U.S. military. Japan bears costs for furnishing 87 bases and areas, and pays indemnity for damages derived from those bases (noise and toxic pollution, crimes committed by military members, etc.).

Trump’s suggestion may have been nothing more than the ambitious candidate’s tall talk to win votes. Paradoxically, though, Trump has pried open the hitherto tightly closed doors to the Japan-U.S. alliance, bringing about a rare chance to revisit the security treaty under which Okinawa has suffered so much and for so long.

Yoshio Shimoji

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.