Japan plans record boost to ‘sympathy budget’ for hosting US military bases: source

26-Nov-2021 Intellasia | Mainichi | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Japan is moving to boost the annual “sympathy budget” for hosting US military bases by a record 50 billion yen (approx. $434 million)-plus to the high 200 billion-yen range from fiscal 2022, a Japanese government source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

The hefty increase is based on government views that the Japan-US alliance must be reinforced in the face of China’s growing military might, and is intended to strengthen Japan’s defensive capabilities, the source said.

Japan earmarked 201.7 billion yen (about $1.75 billion) in fiscal 2021 for the sympathy budget. The largest previous year-on-year increase in the budget was 30.4 billion yen (around $264 million) in fiscal 1993.

Tokyo and Washington are set to broadly finalise a special agreement in early December that establishes the basis for Japan covering the cost of hosting US bases. The amount will be added to the fiscal 2022 budget draft which is expected to be confirmed by a Cabinet decision by the end of 2021. The new special agreement will run from fiscal 2022 to 2026. Previous base-hosting budgets mainly covered utilities and labour costs, among other items, but officials are considering adding bills for Japan-US joint exercises to the latest edition.

Japan has hitherto been reluctant to significantly boost the sympathy budget due to the country’s fiscal woes. However, the government decided to go ahead with the large increase this time in response to the increasingly severe regional security environment, including China’s expanding military capabilities. The fiscal 2022 total may top the previous high of 275.6 billion yen (about $2.4 billion) set in fiscal 1999.

The sympathy budget was first implemented in the fiscal 1978 budget, rising to that fiscal 1999 peak before steadily declining, as the effects of the Cold War and the bursting of Japan’s economic bubble set in. It hit a low of 184.8 billion yen (about $1.6 billion) in fiscal 2014, rising again ever since. However, the largest hike from fiscal 2015 on was 5.1 billion yen (approx. $44.3 million). The year-on-year increase in the fiscal 2021 budget was 2.4 billion yen (around $20.9 million).

The base cost framework agreement in effect now expired at the end of fiscal 2020. The terms were extended for a year, as the United States had just gone through a change of presidential administration. In April 2021, the leaders of Japan and the US stated in a joint declaration that they would strengthen Japan’s defenses. Negotiations on the new cost framework have been ongoing since.



Category: Japan

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