U.S. Leaders Call for Japan's Support
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
TOKYO, Mar. 17, 2000 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen today urged the Japanese people to continue providing host nation support for U.S. forces forward deployed in Japan.
Speaking at the Japan National Press Club here March 17, Cohen labeled the alliance the most important bilateral relationship in Asia. "It will be as important to Asia's future as it has been to Asia's past," the secretary said.
Japan provides about $4.3 billion annually in host nation support to U.S. forces. About 50,000 U.S. service members are stationed in Japan. The host nation support covers the cost of hiring about 23,000 local employees, providing utilities and, in some cases, providing additional housing allowances.
With the end of the Cold War and the economic crisis that hit Asia, some Japanese have suggested reducing host nation support. There has been some criticism in the Japanese press of continuing the current level of host support, but there has also been firm support, according to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley.
A review of public attitudes in Japan, indicates support for the security alliance remains strong, said Foley who sat with Cohen at the press club speech. "Something like 75 percent of the Japanese people believe the United States will be a reliable security partner and will be the most important partner for Japan five, 10 years out," Foley told reporters traveling with the secretary.
"Despite the end of the Cold War," the ambassador said, "the continued concerns about tensions on the Korean Peninsula -- particularly [North Korea] firing the Taepo Dong missile [over Japan] in August 1998 -- reminded many in Japan that the security relationship is important."
Foley and Cohen declared Congress would have a hard time understanding a Japanese reduction in host nation support. "These forces we have in Japan do not come without cost to the American taxpayer as well," Foley said.
The Japanese cover just over half of the end costs of maintaining U.S. forces in Japan. “But on the other hand, we pay all of the salaries, we provide all the equipment,” Foley said.
"Every time the Kitty Hawk, the only aircraft carrier group stationed outside the United States, leaves port, it costs probably a million dollars a day to keep the carrier group at sea," Foley said. "That's all borne by the U.S. side"
Cohen stressed that host nation support is not a "sympathy budget" as some have suggested. It is an integral part of Japan's security budget and an important contribution to regional stability, he said.
For its part, the United States deploys forces in Japan to guarantee its security and pays the majority of the associated expenses, he noted. Japan invests in its 230,000-strong Self Defense Forces, provides base facilities for the U.S. forces and host nation support.
In 1996, President Clinton and Japan's former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto signed the Security Declaration to strengthen the alliance. In May 1999, U.S. and Japanese officials updated Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation to prepare for peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and other contingency operations.
The United States and Japan are now working together to ensure regional stability, including theater missile defense research and the policy of pursuing engagement with China. The two nations are also working to support Indonesia's transition to democracy. Along with the Republic of Korea, they aim to encourage a more open and peaceful North Korea.
"The ultimate support of the alliance, rests on the support of the people," Cohen stressed to the Japanese media. "Given the astonishing and unpredictable rush of world events today … our alliance may be even more important than ever before."
The Asian-Pacific region's peace, prosperity and stability, rests on the "certainty" of the U.S.-Japan alliance, he said. "Our alliance has never been so critical and our cooperation has never been so close."