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U.S. fears Japan could reduce troop support

Date Posted: 2010-10-07

The U.S. State Department is keeping an eye on the Japanese government as it begins a screening process for financial assistance for maintaining American troops and bases in the coming fiscal year that begins next April.

A senior State Department official says the Japanese government plans to screen the request for host-nation support for the coming year is being considered an open policy contest. He says the U.S., upon first learning of the Japanese plan, was concerned about “the potential impact” on the host-nation support budget, but now says “I don’t think anyone can say what that is now.”

The unidentified official says “In a more general sense, we would not want Host Nation Support funding to decrease in any way,” adding “we are watching it closely.” Japan’s host-nation support budget has dropped 15% since 2003, although the costs of stationing troops in Japan, which are paid for by the Japanese government, have increased 25%.

Speaking with Japanese reporters, he said “any further reduction sends the wrong signal in the region about the direction of the bilateral security relationship.” The two countries began talks in July about renewing the agreement before its March 2011 expiration. Tokyo and Washington have met already this month, and the American diplomat says he’s confident the talks will be completed before the end of the year, noting the host-nation support budget is critical. He points out it has been referred to as a “sympathy budget” in Japan, but says the phrase is outmoded and doesn’t fit today’s circumstances.

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