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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #344: April 27, 2006

Cost of U.S. Military Shuffle Stuns Japan

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Cost of U.S. Military Shuffle Stuns Japan
(Associated Press) Mercury News


There can be many different reasons for foreign troops to be stationed in a country. It used to be more often than not that troops were deployed in a foreign land to occupy the area following a military confrontation with the local regime. There are recently also cases where troops are sent in accordance with international agreement such as at the UN to enforce law and order, and protect the lives of citizens, in regions torn up by civil conflicts.

Then there is the third type of troops stationed in a foreign land. This can be seen when there is some sort of a security pact between the countries which dispatched the troops and the host to accept them. The U.S. troops stationed in Japan are there under the provisions of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Based on the agreement, the U.S. bears the direct cost of military personnel and the weaponry stationed in Japan, which must be borne by the U.S. anyway no matter where the troops are deployed, whereas the cost of the troops for them to be in Japan, such as to use the land, establish and maintain the buildings, and pay salaries (and their social benefits) to local employees of the troops to maintain the facilities, are paid by the Japanese government.

It is generally acknowledged that Japan was able to succeed in the rapid recovery of economy following the total destruction by the war, and has been able to sustain generally - albeit cyclical swings - affluent life by its people, because in effect a significant portion of inherently huge military cost of defense was supported by the U.S. It was beneficial for the U.S. also, as Japan was bearing the cost of the troops for them to be deployed and stationed in the West-Pacific, the U.S. was possible to pursue its own global agenda at a cost significantly lower than possible otherwise.

In fact, large majority of the Japanese people still support the current overall framework that has functioned effectively over the years, politically, economically, and socially. (This is so even though there have been unfortunate incidents - as perhaps fact of life phenomena.)

Then the U.S. announced its global military alignment plan which included a number of reallocations of troops stationed in Japan. The most significant for Japan was the part where 8,000 Marines were to be moved from Okinawa to Guam. This was generally received favorably in Japan, as the local governments, especially that of Okinawa prefecture where 90% of the U.S. bases in Japan are concentrated, for long have expressed their desire to decrease the burden of having military bases in their communities, and resentments by the residents, because of noise, traffic, and other inconveniences as well as frictions in the daily lives due to language cultural differences were becoming intense.

If the realignment plan were for the sole benefit of the U.S., it might not have been required for Japan to bear a significant portion of the cost. But as the circumstances were such, the Japanese government was prepared to pay a meaningful sum to reallocate the Marines from Okinawa to Guam. After a number of discussions, a deal was finally struck between Japanese Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for Japan to shoulder 59 percent, or $6.09 billion, of the total cost of the relocation estimated at $10.27 billion, including grants and loans. But some people in Japan claim it to bee too high, both in terms of real money and the percentage of the total, and persuasions were just to begin.

This was when Richard Lawless, deputy defense undersecretary for Asia and Pacific affairs, made an announcement that Japan will be paying an estimated $ 26 billion or more to implement the overall U.S. military realignment in Japan over six to seven years, which stunned Japanese government officials such that the Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe could only react, with a subtle shrug, by saying "In my impression, it is an incredible sum of money."

Whatever the intentions of Richard Lawless, it might not have been wise to come out especially with such definite dollar figures when details of the deal made only a few days ago are being ironed out. It would only make the Japanese people skeptical and worried, if not they already have been so, in which case it could further intensify the anxieties.

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