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Japan-US talks on ‘sympathy budget’ may start this week

President Donald J. Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leave the Akasaka Palace Monday, May 27, 2019, following their afternoon of meetings at the palace in Tokyo. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
October 14, 2020

Japan and the United States will start talks as early as this week to revise the so-called sympathy budget, a special agreement on the expenses shouldered by Tokyo in relation to U.S. troops stationed in Japan, it has been learned.

The revisions would apply from next fiscal year.

The Japanese government has decided not to propose a specific figure for the time being, as the United States is occupied with the November presidential election.

The talks will be held online. U.S. representatives will speak with deputy-minister-level officials from Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry, several Japanese government officials said.

Under the current agreement, which covers five years from fiscal 2016, Japan shoulders a total of ¥946.5 billion, including labor costs for U.S. military bases and utility expenses.

This arrangement will expire at the end of March 2021. The United States is expected to ask Japan to increase its financial burden from next fiscal year, but has yet to come up with a specific amount, the sources said.

With the presidential election just around the corner, the United States “is in a difficult position to make important diplomatic decisions,” a source close to Japan-U.S. diplomacy said.


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