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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The United States and Japan on Wednesday struck a deal to renew of the Special Measures Agreement, a cost-sharing arrangement that covers labor and operational expenses on U.S. military bases.

The new three-year pact goes into effect April 1.

Faced with a mounting national debt, Tokyo wanted to dramatically reduce host-nation support for U.S. bases, particularly its hefty contribution toward utility costs.

“We believe that an appropriate revision was made,” said Masaki Takaoka, an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division.

He denied Japanese media reports that claimed the recent suspension of Japanese refueling operations in the Indian Ocean affected negotiations.

Senior State Department officials from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and high-ranking leaders from U.S. Forces Japan headquarters at Yokota represented the United States during the talks.

“We participated in these tough negotiations to secure the best outcome for the alliance, and believe the results will strengthen our security partnership and continue our collective forward progress on [realignment],” said Air Force Col. Eric Schnaible, a USFJ spokesman.

In its current fiscal year, which ends March 31, Japan provided 142.5 billion yen — or about $1.27 billion — to the U.S. military under the Special Measures Agreement. That included about $226 million in utility costs; about $1 billion for 23,055 out of more than 25,000 Japanese employees who work on U.S. military installations; and about $19.7 million in training relocation costs, mostly aimed at reducing noise burdens in heavily populated areas.

Schnaible said the new SMA maintains current levels of Japanese-funded labor positions and continues the framework for moving U.S. training interests.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura said the agreement strengthens the U.S.- Japan alliance.

The U.S. agreed to make adjustments under utility cost sharing that will “enhance the program’s efficiency and predictability,” Schnaible said.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs news release issued Wednesday evening, Japan will pay about $226 million in base utility costs during its upcoming fiscal year, which is no change from 2007.

It will then allocate roughly $223 million for the bills in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, a 1.5 percent reduction.

The utility expenses involve electricity, water, sewage, diesel fuel, natural gas, propane and kerosene.

“The agreement on UCS (utility cost sharing) will provide stable and predictable levels of funding for U.S. military components,” Schnaible said. “This will enable U.S. commanders to more effectively plan for future requirements and implement energy-savings measures.”

Both governments also will conduct a comprehensive review of host-nation support to make it more efficient and effective, U.S. and Japanese officials said.

The SMA normally is renegotiated every five years, but the two sides agreed to set the previous deal at two years because of realignment talks.

The agreement covers base pay of Japanese base employees but not allowances. The Japanese government intends to cut those built-in incentives by about 10 percent. The move led to two strikes last month outside U.S. military bases, with another round scheduled next week.

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