Japan: End ‘Sympathy Budget’ for Stationing of US Forces


12-13-07, 9:20 am

In drafting the next fiscal year’s military budget, the Japanese government is discussing with the U.S. government to what extent Japan will bear the cost of the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan – the so-called “sympathy budget.”

The Japanese government is planning to reduce its share of labor costs for Japanese workers working at U.S. bases on the grounds of financial difficulties. The U.S. government, however, has refused the Japanese request.

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo in his recent talks with U.S. President George W. Bush failed to refute the U.S. argument.

Since Japan has no obligation to pay such an enormous amount of money, the government must refuse to continue the “sympathy budget.”

No legal obligation to pay ‘sympathy budget’

In 1978, then Defense Agency Director General Kanemaru Shin introduced the “sympathy budget” system in order to support the U.S. government which was struggling with the mounting costs of the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan due to the appreciation of the yen, in disregard of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Not satisfied with merely covering the cost for constructing facilities at U.S. bases, the Japanese government has added more items of expenditure, including the base salaries of Japanese workers and the cost for utilities, with the renewal of the Japan-U.S. agreement on the “sympathy budget” every five years since 1987. The amount of expenditure, which was originally 6.2 billion yen, jumped to more than 210 billion yen this year.

There is no country like Japan that is so servile as to pay for the stationing of U.S. forces under the name of “sympathy budget.”

The current special agreement on the “sympathy budget”, which is in effect for only two years due to the ongoing U.S. forces realignment, will expire next March. Japan now has the golden opportunity to end this budget system.

The Japanese government, however, has no intention to do so. It is requesting the U.S. to reduce only 10 billion yen in its share of the salaries for Japanese base employees.

It is the U.S. that should pay what Japan is paying as a “sympathy budget.” The SOFA’s Article 24 states, “The United States will bear for the duration of this Agreement without cost to Japan all expenditures incident to the maintenance of the United States armed forces in Japan.” That is why the Japanese government had to make the “sympathy budget” an exception by concluding a special agreement with a limited duration of five years.

In order to justify this budget system, the government has insisted that the U.S. forces are stationed in Japan to defend Japan. However, such an argument can no longer convince the public. It is clear that U.S. forces are stationed in Japan to fulfill their missions in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Japan should totally abolish the “sympathy budget” system not only for itself but for the sake of world peace.

Use tax money for the defense of people’s living conditions

While imposing cuts on spending for social welfare programs and education, the government is shifting unbearable burdens onto the public by a series of tax hikes. The government’s generosity towards the U.S. forces has stirred up public indignation. If the government really intends to address financial problems, it must stop sending the Self-Defense Forces abroad, abolish the “sympathy budget” system, and cancel its plan to pay three trillion yen for the U.S. forces realignment in Japan. In order to secure financial resources for social welfare programs, it is even more important than before to drastically reduce Japan’s military expenditure that amounts to five trillion yen.

--From Akahata