The United States and Japan held negotiations on a new agreement by which Tokyo will take on its share of the burden of hosting American troops, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a press conference on Wednesday.
“We agreed to continue coordination on dates and framework for formal negotiations in the coming weeks,” he said, adding that the negotiations took place last week.
U.S. State Department and Defense Department representatives participated in the talks held on Oct. 15-16 with their Japanese counterparts, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The agreement will replace the existing agreement set to end in March next year, according to Nikkei Asia.
The country hosts 54,000 American troops ready to respond to potential threats together with the Japanese army, according to The Japan Times. The host covers the cost of utility fees, civilian wages, and some military drill expenses which amount to a total of $1.9 billion (200 billion yen) per year, The Japan Times reported.
Pompeo said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK earlier this month that he was confident both countries would resolve this for their mutual benefit. “We will share this burden in a way that I think each country will find fair and equitable. I’m highly confident that we’ll resolve this,” he said.
Japan and the United States have been expanding their military cooperation in areas such as “ballistic missiles defense, cyberspace, outer space, and maritime security,” according to a statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Both countries also work on the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, in particular on the relocation “of approximately 9,000 U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan to Guam, a U.S. territory and other locations in order to mitigate the impact on local communities” without impacting the deterrence capabilities of U.S. forces, the statement said.
The main threats Japan faces are the increase of China’s military aggressive activities in the region and North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, reported The Mainichi.
In particular, Japan is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea. Japan’s annual defense policy paper in July accused China of unilaterally changing the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized manmade islands and is assertively pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways.