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Japan pays enough for US military bases, Nikkei poll says

A C-5M Super Galaxy arrives at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

YASUO OSAKABE/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 29, 2017

TOKYO — Japanese citizens do not want to pay more for hosting U.S. military personnel and are now more likely to predict a downturn in bilateral relations, according to a Nikkei poll released Monday.

The survey taken this past weekend found that 57 percent of Japanese favored maintaining spending on U.S. bases at current levels, while 30 percent said Japan is spending too much. Five percent said Japan should spend more, the poll said.

Japan pays an average of 189.3 billion yen — or between $1.65 billion and $1.95 billion, depending on currency exchange rates — per year to support U.S. bases in the country as part of a five-year deal signed in 2015.

Japan spent an additional 176 billion yen last year for realignment of U.S. forces in the region, which includes transferring Marines to Guam in the 2020s.

U.S. bases in Japan cost $5.5 billion in 2016, a figure that doesn’t include an additional $1 billion in Japan-provided labor, according to the Pentagon’s 2017 operation and maintenance overview. Half of the $5.5 billion went toward U.S. personnel paychecks, health care and other costs.

While campaigning, President Donald Trump criticized Japan and South Korea for not paying enough. As president-elect, Trump met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and spoke with him over the phone shortly after taking office.

The two are scheduled to meet in Washington on Feb. 10, according to Japanese media reports.

Lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have generally rejected any significant increase in base spending.

“It would be very strange for Japan to say, ‘Oh, we’re very sorry, we’ll pay more,” Shigeru Ishiba, a Diet member and former defense minister, told reporters in November.

However, Ishiba and some Japan Self-Defense Forces senior officials have said there may be room for Japan to take on additional security duties.

The U.S.-Japan security alliance requires the United States to come to Japan’s defense if attacked. Meanwhile, land provided by Japan gives the U.S. military a staging point for its operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Nikkei-poll respondents also expressed pessimism for the future of relations with Washington, a view that came shortly after Trump rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which was strongly backed by Abe.

The survey reported that 53 percent of respondents said the bilateral relationship would worsen during the Trump presidency, which is 19 percent higher than in November.

Another 31 percent said relations would remain unchanged, a 15 percent drop from November. Only 6 percent of respondents said the relationship would improve.

The Nikkei survey included 945 adult respondents via random-digit dialing. The Nikkei Asian Review report on the survey did not list the margin of error.

slavin.erik@stripes.com

Twitter: @eslavin_stripes

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