思いやり予算 日米同盟の信頼損ねぬ議論を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan-U.S. talks on ‘sympathy budget’ must be based on trust in alliance
思いやり予算 日米同盟の信頼損ねぬ議論を

Tokyo should conduct discussions calmly with Washington over its budgetary appropriations for host-nation support to U.S. forces in Japan — known as “omoiyari yosan” (sympathy budget) — because this support is crucial for this country’s security.

Negotiations between Japanese and U.S. governments have gone into high gear over a special treaty to determine Japan’s share of the cost of U.S. forces stationed in this country in fiscal 2016 and thereafter.

The Japanese side is insisting on a drastic reduction of its burden, but the U.S. side is poised to maintain its demand that the cost be increased by several tens of percents.

The Japanese government wants to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year and have a new draft treaty endorsed by the ordinary Diet session next year.

The sympathy budget made its debut in fiscal 1978. It mainly pays for the development and maintenance of barracks and housing units stipulated under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, and labor costs and some of the expense of lighting, heating and water determined by a special treaty that is renewed every two to five years.

The sympathy budget in fiscal 2015 is ¥189.9 billion. The budget has been gradually reduced after reaching a peak at ¥275.6 billion in fiscal 1999. But it has tended to level off in recent years.

In the current negotiations with the United States, Japan is requesting the abolition or reduction of the labor costs for employees at movie theaters and other entertainment facilities within U.S. bases, as well as expenses for lighting, heating and water because of the country’s difficult fiscal situation and the recent depreciation of the yen.

Bases key for security

Japan’s share of the burden will certainly increase in the future due to realignment of U.S. forces stationed in the country such as the transfer of U.S. marines in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.

Formulation of new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and development of the new security-related laws will lead to the Self-Defense Forces expanding activities conducted jointly with U.S. forces. Japan uses this as one of the reasons for demanding a reduction of its cost burden.

It is a matter of course for the government to try to eliminate wasteful spending in reducing the amount it pays for U.S. forces stationed in Japan and to rationalize use of the sympathy budget.

However, U.S. forces stationed in Japan are a foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Therefore, it is significant to maintain quality of life for U.S. military personnel.

Washington has reportedly cited reduction of its defense spending and the arms buildup due to its rebalancing effort to Asia as reasons for demanding an increase in Japan’s burden.

North Korea’s nuclear development and China’s maritime advances have made the security environment surrounding Japan increasingly volatile. The significance of the deterrence provided by U.S. forces in Japan is certainly increasing.

Also, U.S. forces in Japan are in effect a public asset for the Asia-Pacific region. It was a U.S. Aegis-equipped destroyer based at Yokosuka Naval Base that sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.

The government has shouldered part of the costs for U.S. forces in Japan not out of “sympathy.” They are necessary costs to secure peace and stability of Japan and in its neighboring region, and a fair share of responsibility as a U.S. ally.

The negotiations for the current treaty from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2015 experienced rough going, too, because of the vast difference between assertions made by Japan and the United States. But they finally agreed to maintain the status quo.

Tokyo and Washington must search for common ground by negotiating with each other based on how important this alliance is.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 7, 2015)

by kiyoshimat | 2015-11-08 09:51 | 英字新聞

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