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International relations

Japan and US agree on 1-year cost-sharing deal for hosting troops

Allies worked quickly to come to terms before current pact expires in March

A Japan-U.S. joint exercise using MV-22 Osprey aircraft is conducted at a training ground of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force in Yamato, Kumamoto Prefecture, Southwestern Japan, on January 23, 2020.    © AP

TOKYO -- Japan and the U.S. have agreed to keep Tokyo's costs for the stationing of American forces in the country, known as host-nation support, at around the current level for fiscal 2021, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Wednesday.

That means Japan's expenditure will be around $1.9 billion for the year, roughly the same standard it has been for the past five years. 

"We managed to come to an agreement in the early days of the Biden administration," Motegi told reporters at the ministry. "It strengthens the trust within the alliance and sends out a message to the international community," he said. 

The cost-sharing arrangement is reviewed every five years, and the existing five-year deal is set to expire at the end of next month. The one-year agreement was reached after the Japanese and U.S. concluded there was too little time between the inauguration of President Joe Biden in mid-January and the current deal's expiration in March.

Host-nation support mostly covers labor costs for local staff and utility bills. If the two sides did not agree, payments were at risk of stalling. The two sides put differences aside and chose to avoid any disruption to the operations of the U.S. forces in Japan.

Biden's predecessor Donald Trump has pressed Japan for a significant increase expenditure and to accept a "fair share of the burden."

.In the fiscal 2021 budget, now under deliberation in the Diet, the government has provisionally earmarked 201.7 billion yen ($1.9 billion) in its host-nation support, based on the current deal.

The government plans to submit to the current Diet session a revised protocol that will extend the pact by a year and seek approval by the end of March.

Japan began full-fledged negotiations on a new treaty after watching the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, in November.

Many in Japan believe the Biden administration will ask Japan for practical cooperation to strengthen deterrence rather than for it to chip in more financially. Areas of increased Japanese cooperation could range from island defense, cyber security and missile defense.

Japan's Ministry of Defense calculates that Tokyo shoulders 86.4% of the cost to host U.S. forces in the country.

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