Japan agrees to five-year pact to pay for U.S. defense
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Japan and the U.S. have agreed on a five-year plan that will maintain Japan’s current spending to support U.S. military forces in the country, but reduce the number of Japanese workers on base, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday.
The Japanese government will spend 188.1 billion yen, or $2.02 billion, annually through 2016 on Japanese employee salaries, utilities and base maintenance. Japan has been spending roughly the same annual amount under a three-year deal that will expire in March. The government spent a high of $3.17 billion in 1999.
The new deal provides more money for facility upgrades, but comes at the expense of roughly 2 percent of the Japanese work force. Over the next five years, 430 of the current 23,055 jobs will be lost, said Yasuyuki Okazaki, spokesman for the ministry’s Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division of North American Affairs Bureau.
Prior to the accord, lawmakers had criticized Japan’s financial support of workers at entertainment facilities on military bases.
“I believe that thorough discussions have been made on the issues, such as paying wages for bartenders, for instance,” Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa said in reference to the job cuts.
Earlier in the year, The All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, known as Zenchuro, had asked the government not to cut any jobs.
Meanwhile, the additional funding for facilities will go toward energy-efficient system upgrades, Okazaki told Stars and Stripes.
The funding also includes up to 24.9 billion yen, about $267.8 million, on utilities. The figure is expected to cover 72 percent of base utility expenses, which is down from 76 percent under the expiring deal.
U.S. Embassy officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday.
The spending agreement essentially followed the Dec. 1 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 reserves separate from the national defense budget.
The agreement also comes amid Japan’s ongoing debate about its public debt, which reached 193 percent of gross domestic output in 2009, second in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. By comparison, the U.S. ranked 41st, with debt equaling 53.5 percent of its gross domestic output.