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US Defense Boss Insists on Japanese Military Support

Date Posted: 2000-03-25

US Defense Secretary William Cohen last week put pressure on Japanese defense officials, asking them not to cut the $5 billion (over ¥500 billion) a year the government pays to keep 47,000 American troops in Japan. Speaking earlier to reporters on his flight here from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, one of Cohen’s senior advisors told reporters that the Pentagon was hoping to reach a new 5-year “host nation support” agreement by this summer, when President Clinton will travel to Japan for the much awaited G8 Summit in Okinawa. The official also revealed Pentagon’s belief that it can persuade Tokyo to keep “roughly the same” level of payments, according to several news reports.

Under the current deal, which will expire in 2001, Japan pays about $100,000 (more than ¥10 million) a year for every US soldier, sailor, airman and Marine based in Japan. That amounts to about $5 billion a year - by far the most generous financial support by any ally with American forces on its soil.

Several officials also hinted that both the United States and Japan were on the verge of an agreement that will address US complaints about pollution from the smokestacks of an incinerator located just outside the gates of the Atsugi Naval Air Facility in the south of Tokyo.

US Navy officials have often complained that the Shinkampo incinerator is harming the health of the 6,600 residents and Navy workers who live within a half-mile of it. Last year, Japan’s Environment Agency said the levels of carcinogenic dioxin are dangerously high near the Atsugi naval facility.

Defense Secretary Cohen also discussed with Japanese officials his three-day visit to Vietnam, which was the first by an American cabinet member in that position since the Vietnam War ended a quarter of a century ago.

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