Japan, U.S. broadly agree on over ¥1 tril. sympathy budget for FY22-26 period

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed in principle that Japan will spend more than ¥1 trillion for the so-called sympathy budget — the share that Japan shoulders for the cost of the U.S. military’s stationing in Japan — over a five-year period from fiscal 2022 to 2026, government sources said.

The amount is nearly ¥50 billion higher than the amount Japan actually spent during the five-year period to fiscal 2020, the sources said.

The government has judged that the larger sympathy budget is necessary amid the increasingly severe national security environment, with such issues as China’s military advance.

While reducing spending on utilities costs at U.S. bases, the government plans to increase the number of spending items for development of facilities provided by Japan and other spending items considered to contribute to enhanced deterrence.

The related costs for the increased sympathy budget will be earmarked in the fiscal 2022 draft budget to be adopted by the Cabinet within the year.

The two governments are working to arrange to hold the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, a meeting of foreign and defense chiefs known as the 2-plus-2 security talks, in Washington on Jan. 7.

On that occasion, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken are expected to sign a new special accord that will include the items of agreement for the sympathy budget.

The government will submit a proposal during the ordinary Diet session to seek lawmakers’ approval of the accord.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden sees China as the “only competitor” for the United States and is seeking to have its allies shoulder fair shares of defense and other related spending.

During the 2-plus-2 security talks, Japan wants to share its concerns over China with the United States and to reaffirm the two allies’ intention to work together toward peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

By signing a new accord that includes the increased sympathy budget, Japan wants to enhance its alliance with the United States.

With the sympathy budget, Japan pays a portion of the costs that would otherwise be shouldered by the U.S. side for the U.S. military’s stationing in Japan.

The sympathy budget is normally revised once every five years. But last year, Japan faced tough negotiations with the United States as the administration of then President Donald Trump sought a huge increase, and the negotiations rolled into this year with the new Biden administration inaugurated in January.

As a result, Japan and the United States agreed in February on an interim sympathy budget to cover one year in fiscal 2021, and the government earmarked ¥201.7 billion spending for that purpose, the same level as the sympathy budget for fiscal 2020.