TOKYO — The United States and Japan on Friday officially signed off on the new Special Measures Agreement, a five-year plan that will maintain Japan’s current spending to support U.S. military forces in the country.
U.S. Ambassador John Roos and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara signed the “host nation support” pact during a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.
“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,” Roos said during the ceremony, pointing out that it is one of Japan’s critical contributions to their alliance.
The Japanese government will spend 188.1 billion yen — or $2.02 billion — annually in the next five years on Japanese employee salaries, utilities and base maintenance. Japan has been spending roughly the same annual amount under the current three-year agreement that expires in March.
Japan has been reducing the amount it pays for U.S. bases over the past decade from a high of $3.17 billion in 1999.
The new deal provides more money for facility upgrades, including energy-efficient systems, officials said. The new agreement will also cover the cost of moving some training for Okinawa-based F-15 fighters to Guam.
However, it comes at the expense of roughly 2 percent of the Japanese work force. Over the next five years, 430 of the 23,055 jobs that the Japanese government funds will be eliminated, ministry officials said.
Japanese lawmakers have criticized using tax dollars to pay the salaries of workers at entertainment facilities on military bases.
The rate Japan pays for base utilities expenses will be reduced from 76 percent under the expiring agreement to 72 percent over the next five years. Japan will pay 24.9 billion yen, or about $267.8 million, for utilities.
The budget proposal for funding host nation support — approved by Prime Minister Naoto Kan in late December — essentially followed the recommendation of a Japanese government panel, which said the country’s financial commitment to support U.S. forces should be given high priority among a special category of money reserves separate from the national defense budget.
“The agreement we are signing today is significant not only to the security of Japan but to the peace and stability of this region,” Maehara said.
“Host nation support is often referred to as ‘sympathy budget,’ but we will no longer use this term since host nation support is a strategic contribution by Japan,” he said. “I’d like to declare that it is something that is agreed based on mutual strategic grounds.”