Japan, U.S. Ink New 5-year Base-hosting Cost Deal
    2011-01-21 15:35:46     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhangxu
 

Japan and the United States on Friday inked a new five-year treaty stipulating that Tokyo will continue to maintain the yearly costs of hosting U.S. bases here at an unchanged level of 188.1 billion yen (2.26 billion U.S. dollars) from fiscal 2011.

The special agreement signed by Japan's Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, also contains provisions and costs to be incurred by Tokyo on the transfer of F-15 fighter jet exercises from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to the U.S. island of Guam.

At the ceremony Maehara said he was confident that new treaty, which once ratified in parliament will replace the existing accord that expires in March, will help ease the base-hosting burden on the local Okinawan populace.

Maehara also said that the expression "sympathy budget", as the pervious accords have been dubbed, should be dropped as the new pact represents the strategic interests of both parties.

Roos for his part said that maintaining the U.S.-Japan alliance was critical and that the bilateral security union should be deepened going forward. He refereed to Japan as one of the U.S. " best friends in the world".

Following the ceremony Maehara said to Roos he hoped that the United States would redouble its efforts to cut crime, accidents and noise pollution caused by U.S. military personnel.

Many local Okinawans are quick to recall the rape of a local high school girl by three U.S. military personnel in September 1995 and a Marine CH-53D Sea Stallion heavy assault transport helicopter ploughing into the Okinawa International University in Ginowan in August 2004, as well as a host of other smaller accidents and incidents of crime involving U.S. soldiers.

According to officials, the new accord will see the number of Japanese nationals working for the U.S. military, yet paid by the Japanese government, cut by 430 people from the current level of 22,055, and those working in jobs connected to leisure and entertainment on U.S. bases excluded from the budget entirely.

Utility costs will be capped at 24.9 billion yen (300.14 million U.S. dollars) under the new deal and officials said that the costs covered by the Japanese government will be incrementally reduced over a five-year period from the current level of 76 percent to 72 percent, saving the government some 5.2 billion yen (62.68 million U.S. dollars) to reinvest in U.S. military facially upgrades.

Such upgrades will include introducing energy-conservation technology in residences for U.S. military personnel under the " Green Alliance" initiative, officials said.

Since Japan started providing fiscal support for U.S. bases in 1978, opposition to the amount allocated has increasingly irked the public who believe their taxes should not be used on such things as paying for leisure and entertainment activities of U.S. military personnel stationed here.

Since hitting a peak of 275.6 billion yen (3.32 billion U.S. dollars) in 1999, Japan has slashed its budget due to public outrage and out of economic necessity.

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