US-Japan Relations Strengthen with Two Major Defense Accords

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the US and Japan would soon negotiate a new five-year deal on splitting the expense of the American military deployment in Japan.

The Deal Leading to Better Relations

The deal on a new cost-sharing system for the American military deployment in Japan resolves a major Trump-era irritation in US-Japan ties.

Blinken said the new arrangement would allow both nations to spend more on their troops’ preparedness and capacity to work together.

Concerns over China’s expanding military power led to a defense deal between Japan and Australia on Thursday. The rise in coronavirus infections could’ve hampered Thursday’s negotiations.

Due to the spread of COVID-19, Japan urged the US before the discussions to dismantle American outposts on its land.

Before joining Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi for the video conference, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi made that request to Blinken. Neither of the four officials acknowledged it in their opening remarks.

Blinken assured the US would take maximum steps to safeguard people’s health, but a basic curfew was not instantly obvious, Hayashi said ahead of the four-way discussion.

However, US forces in Japan said a team closely monitored occurrences and trends. A third negative coronavirus test is required before the US military can allow any employees, even those vaccinated, to return to the post.

Coronavirus infections have risen in locations where American personnel is concentrated, notably Okinawa and Iwakuni in southern Japan.

According to USFJ, there are currently 1,784 COVID-19 cases in Japan, with Okinawa accounting for nearly a third of them. Iwakuni has 529.

The Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, plainly recognized the value of the American military deployment. They agreed to a new cost-sharing agreement with Washington before Christmas.

The Burden of the Cost

Trump raged about the cost of US military activities abroad, demanding host nations, notably Japan, pay far more than many were willing to do.

Last April, President Biden brokered a deal with South Korea over the price of keeping US soldiers there. It also led to the Dec. 21 agreement with Japan on a revised four-year “Special Measures Agreement.”

The hosting contract, which runs through 2026, requires Japan to spend around $1.82 billion a year to sustain the US military presence.

The US has some 55,000 personnel in Japan and a naval component, making it the world’s biggest forward-deployed US force.

North Korea, which launched a ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, increased its danger to the US and Japan.

The North’s “hypersonic missile” launch was largely interpreted as a hint that Pyongyang isn’t keen on restarting denuclearisation talks soon and instead wants to beef up its arsenal.

Despite repeated requests from Biden, the North refused to return to even initial nuclear talks.  The State Department’s Ned Price urged the North to stop testing, which he claimed violated UN Security Council sanctions.


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