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Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005

Host-nation support pact pared

Staff writer

Japan and the United States agreed Friday to extend a bilateral special accord on host-nation support for U.S. forces in Japan for two years and not the usual five due to the ongoing U.S. military realignment talks between the two nations.

Because the structure and activities of the U.S. forces here will change over the next several years, the two sides agreed to a shorter the extension of the agreement, a Defense Agency official told reporters.

Japan hopes to carry out a "drastic review" of the host-nation agreement that would include a large cutback in financial support, in two years when the two sides discuss the agreement's extension, the official said.

Japan will ask for Diet approval for the new agreement before the current agreement expires in March.

The two sides plan to ink the new deal next month.

Japan and the U.S. usually agree on the support agreement's extension by summer, but it was delayed this year due to differences of opinion.

"The U.S. has been asking Japan to increase the amount of support due to Washington's increasing defense budget," said a Foreign Ministry official who participated in the negotiations. "But Japan wanted to slash the fees due to its tight budget."

Of the 237.8 billion yen extended in host nation support this year, the special agreement pays the base salaries for nonmilitary workers and covers utilities.

The Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement covers the costs for such facilities as housing, and health-care and welfare fees for the Japanese workers on the bases.

Japan is expected to reduce by "more than 10 percent" from the approximately 68.9 billion yen it is paying this year under SOFA for the facilities, the Defense Agency official said. The exact amount will be announced once the fiscal 2006 budget has been drafted, which is expected by the end of the month, the official said.

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The Japan Times

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