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With the U.S. going through a, er, challenging transition and both countries preoccupied with the pandemic, it looks unlikely that Tokyo and Washington will reach an agreement by March 31 — when the current deal expires — on how much Japan will spend over the next five years to host U.S. troops.

In the interim, the Japanese government will likely approve a one-year budget, roughly the same as this year’s amount. But how much is that, and what exactly does it pay for? Eric Johnston took a look at the issues surrounding the current negotiations in a recent explainer.

While U.S. President Donald Trump wants Japan to pay a lot more than Japan is willing to, and Okinawa remains poles apart from the Japan and U.S. governments on the Futenma base issue, the situation is much less volatile than 25 years ago, after the gang rape of an Okinawan girl by U.S. servicemen. A quarter-century on, Robert D. Eldridge tells the story of how comments by U.S. top brass compounded the outrage, and what came next.

Mage Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, which has been chosen as the site for a relocated U.S. military takeoff and landing training facility | KYODO
Mage Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, which has been chosen as the site for a relocated U.S. military takeoff and landing training facility | KYODO

Okinawa not only hosts nearly two-thirds of U.S. bases in Japan, but also a number of Self-Defense Force sites. As the Okinawa Times reports, more than a year after construction began of an SDF ammo depot in Miyakojima, the project faces protests and the government has been unable to secure ownership of part of the land.

Another proposed military site north of Okinawa has been mired in similar problems, but in November, Kagoshima’s prefectural governor said he would permit a marine boring survey around an island that has been chosen as the new site of a U.S. military takeoff and landing training facility.

As the island is uninhabited, at least base noise shouldn’t be an issue, unlike in Tokyo. Last month, Japan’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against a 2017 high court ruling ordering the central government to pay damages due to aircraft noise pollution near the U.S. Yokota base in western Tokyo. Yup, Japan has to shell out for the racket, not the U.S. — it’s all part of the deal.

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