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Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011

Host-nation deal inked, not 'sympathy budget'


Staff writer

Japan and the United States signed an agreement Friday that keeps Tokyo's annual bill for hosting U.S. military facilities at ¥188.1 billion over the next five years and allows it to relocate unwanted war exercises — for a price.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos signed the accord at the Foreign Ministry.

The financial deal, traditionally called the "omoiyari yosan" (sympathy budget), is a compromise. Japan wanted to pay less because of its financial straits and the U.S. was hoping it would pay more in light of elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and China's rising might. Maehara said it would no longer be called the sympathy budget.

"Host-nation support is one of Japan's critical contributions to the core of our alliance between Japan and the United States," Roos said. "As you know, it is the host nation support that allows us to maintain some of the critical defense capabilities that are not only important for the defense of Japan but critical for the stability in this region of the world."

The new agreement, which takes effect from fiscal 2011 starting in April, stipulates that Japan will cut its contribution to salaries for base employees employed at "entertainment facilities," lowering its payroll to 22,625 workers from 23,055. It also will cut the portion of the utility fees it is paying for U.S. bases to 72 percent from 76 percent over the five-year period.

Based on current data for salaries and utilities, the pay cuts should save about ¥2.5 billion and the utility cuts about ¥2.7 billion, a Foreign Ministry official estimated. The savings will be used to maintain and upgrade base facilities.

The new agreement also includes a clause that allows Japan to partially or completely compensate the United States for the cost of shifting U.S. military drills to other venues.

Those costs, however, are not covered under the annual ¥188.1 billion host-nation support agreement.

No details were available on how the government intends to fund the venue changes.



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The Japan Times

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