manga by U.S. Navy aimed
at getting support for
basing a U.S. nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier in Japan
There are 58,500 Americans working for the American military in Japan (2003). These include 14,000 sailors whose home ports are in Japan and 28,900 servicemen in Okinawa. There are also large numbers of American servicemen nearby in South Korea.

An LDP member once described American policy towards Japan as little more than making Japan into an “aircraft carrier” for the U.S. In the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty the U.S. promises to protect Japan and defines the U.S.’s commitment to protect Japan . In return the United States gained access to much of the eastern Pacific. Agreements between Washington and Tokyo in 1996 and 1997 allow the United States to use Japanese commercial and military air fields in the event of a crisis or war.

American soldiers have to abide by a midnight to 5:00am curfew and are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages off base except at off-base residential districts. The soldier’s salaries of around $1,200 a month are so small in expensive Japan that when they go out on dates with local girls, the girls often pay.

Many of the ships and aircraft in the U.S. Seventh Fleet — which is made up of 50 to 60 warships, 350 aircraft and 60,000 sailor and marines — are based in Yokosuka, a U.S. Navy base in Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo and Yokohama on Tokyo Bay. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa is the largest U.S. Air Force facility in the Far East, with a total of 100 aircraft stationed there, including about 50 F-15 fighters.

Other non-Okinawa bases include: 1) Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo, home of the U.S.’s 5th Air Force, comprised mostly of C-130 transports; 2) Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, home to F/A-18s and a site for aircraft carrier take off and landing drills; 3) Camp Zama in Kangawa Prefecture, headquarters of the U.S. Army in Japan; and 4) Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture, home to Marine F/A-18 -fighters and helicopters.

Japan is contemplating participating in joint military exercises with the U.S. and South Korea. In December 2010, Japan and the United States conduct their 10th joint operation and military drills together. The operation involved 45,000 personnel from the U.S. and Japanese militaries. The South Korean military for the first time observed the drills.

In July 2011, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force would held joint military drills with the U.S. and Australian navies in the disputed South China Sea, apparently aiming to restrain China's increasing maritime ambitions. The exercises were held near Brunei near waters claimed by China.


Good Websites and Sources: Global Security Guide on the Japanese Military ;Military Pictures on Defence Talk ; Military Pictures on Military Photos ; Wikipedia article on Japan Self Defense Forces Wikipedia ; PBS Documentary on Japan’s Self Defense Forces ; Japan Ministry of Defense ; U.S. Forces Japan Official Site ; U.S. Military Bases in Japan

Sympathy Budget

The “sympathy budget” is a term used to describe payments by the Japanese government for things like Japanese staff employed at U.S. military bases and other expenditures that help American forces in Japan. These expenses are about $2.2 billion a year, with most of it going to labor expenditures.

The United States pays about $40 billion to keep troops in Asia. The United States reportedly pays 88 percent of the cost of keeping an American presence in Korea but only 50 percent of the costs in Japan. Some sources report that Japan pays 70 percent of the cost, but that figure excludes troop salaries.

The Japanese government shells out $4 billion to subsidize 94 military based located on Japanese soil. About $3.3 billion of that covers the cost of labor, utilities, facility improvements and land rental; and the remaining $700 million is for tax exemptions.

Why the U.S. Military is in Japan

In January 2010, Japan and the United States celebrated the 50th anniversary of their alliance that began with the signing of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The anniversary was not celebrated with any great fanfare and in fact occurred at a time when relations between the two countries was being tested over the controversy surrounding the Futenma air base.

On the presence of American troops in Japan, Joseph Nye, a professor of international relations at Harvard, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “What the troops provide you is a security guarantee which is credible. Japan is faced with both China and North Korea as nuclear powers and of course Russia. Japan needs an American guarantee if it doesn’t wish to develop its own nuclear weapons. How do you make that guarantee credible? You make that credible by having American troops in Japan. Anyone who attacks Japan?North Korea for example — is going to kill Americans as well as Japanese.”

On why it was necessary to have the troops in Japan rather than some other place Nye said, “If you took all the marines off Okinawa and put them in Guam, they’re going to be less efficient if there’s a problem in North Korea, for example. It’s that much farther away. So from a military efficiency point of view, there would be some loss.”

Nuclear Weapons and Okinawa

Documents revealed in 2008 indicate that Sato made a secret deal with U.S. President Richard Nixon, negotiated by Henry Kissinger, in which the United States agreed to return Okinawa to Japan in return for being allowed to keep nuclear weapons on Japanese soil in Okinawa in the case of an emergency. This agreement, which was reportedly signed in a small room off the Oval office in the White House, contradicted a 1967 Japanese declaration which stated that no nuclear weapons would be brought into Japan and a 1969 agreement between Japan and the United States that called for the removal of all nuclear weapons from Okinawa.

In late 2009, the Hatoyama government revealed to the public a document concerning the deal to bring nuclear weapons to Japan signed by Sato and Nixon that was found in Sato’s home and other records on the deal. In addition, an American diplomat and Japanese bureaucrat admitted the secret agreement was made.Sato won the Nobel Peace prize. He reportedly cried over the deal that brought nuclear weapons to Japan.

Martin Fackler wrote in New York Times in 2010, “Japan ended decades of denials by confirming the existence of secret cold war-era agreements with Washington that, among other things, had allowed American nuclear-armed warships to sail into Japanese ports in violation of Japan's non-nuclear policies. [Source: Martin Fackler, New York Times, March 10, 2010]

“The existence of the pacts, known in Japan as the ''secret treaties,'' has long been known from declassified documents in the United States and the testimony of former American and Japanese diplomats. But successive prime ministers denied their existence, turning the agreements into a symbol for many Japanese of how insider-driven Liberal Democratic governments had turned their country into a stunted democracy run without full consent by the public.”

“After ending the Liberal Democrats' nearly unbroken 54-year grip on power last summer, the new Democratic Party government opened an investigation into the pacts as part of their promised housecleaning of Japan's postwar order. Exposing the truth about their nation's secret dealings with the United States was also part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's pledge to put Tokyo on a more equal footing with Washington.”

“Japanese foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, said investigators had found evidence of clandestine agreements that also required Japan to pay for the cleanup of former American bases on Okinawa after that island's return to Japan in 1972. They also found evidence of an agreement giving the United States unrestricted use of its bases in Japan in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, he said. Many crucial documents had inexplicably disappeared, he said, though he said it was too early to know if they had been intentionally destroyed. Okada refused to answer questions about what would happen if the United States were to try to bring in nuclear weapons in the future. He also left vague whether American warships had actually brought nuclear weapons into Japan in the past. He said there was no evidence, but the possibility could not be denied.”

“The findings could push the Japanese public to face one of the biggest contradictions in Japan's postwar diplomacy: the reliance of this avowedly non-nuclear nation on the United States' nuclear deterrent for its security. “'This will lead us to ask new questions about Japan's current nuclear policy,'' Kazuhiko Togo, a retired diplomat who has written about the pacts and whose father, Fumihiko Togo, was a diplomat who helped negotiate them, told the New York Times. ''It was hard to ask these questions until now because there was a complete closing off of information.''

Japan-U.S. Relations As Japan Adapts Military to Chinese Threat

Martin Fackler wrote in the New York Times, “Given its limits, Japan’s strategy for now appears for it to become a fuller military partner of the United States, which maintains 50,000 military personnel in Japan. Japanese planners now speak of a division of labor between the two militaries, in which a more robust Japan carries a greater load in areas like anti-submarine warfare, freeing up the Americans to focus elsewhere. The December guidelines also call for “integrating” Japanese and American forces by sharing command centers and intelligence. [Source: Martin Fackler, New York Times, February 28, 2011]

Analysts say Tokyo seeks to bind the two militaries together in order to keep the United States engaged in East Asia, and from becoming too distracted by its financial crisis and war in Afghanistan. “Japan is strengthening itself as an alliance partner,” Richard J. Samuels, an expert on Japanese security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the New York Times “while also hedging against the day when U.S. capabilities might slip below U.S. commitments.”

“Indeed, Japan seems to have reached a new consensus about the need to remain close to the United States, even while strengthening itself,” Fackler wrote. “The governing party, the left-leaning Democrats, briefly experimented with pulling away from Washington under former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who in 2009 called for taking Japan closer to China, and clashed with Washington over an air base in Okinawa. However, his successor, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, has worked to regain Washington’s trust. China also inadvertently pushed Japan back toward the United States in September, when Beijing’s heavy-handed pressuring of Tokyo to release a detained Chinese trawler captain surprised and angered many Japanese.

American Aircraft Carriers in Japan

In September 2008, the United States announced it would keep a nuclear-powers vessel — the aircraft carrier USS George Washington’stationed in Japan for the first time. Ordinary Japanese have safety-related concerns about the vessel and object to anything associated with nuclear power and the United States in Japan.

The 333-meter-long George Washington — the largest warship in the world, weighing 97,000 tons and capable of carrying 75 aircraft and 6,000 people — is the first nuclear powered vessel based outside the United States. The vessel is powered by two pressurized water reactors and was placed in Japan as a response to China’s military build up.

The George Washington will be based at Yokosuka. It will replace the non-nuclear Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier. The Kitty Hawk was the oldest active American aircraft carrier until was decommissioned in 2008.

Attitude of Japanese People Towards American Military

In a 1995 poll, 60 percent of Japanese said that they supported the security alliance with the United States but 77 percent said they want to see a "major reduction" in the number of American troops in Japan. In another poll taken around the same time only 5 percent of Japanese said they thought American bases were for the benefit of Japan while 46 percent said they were for the benefit of the United States

One Japanese military analyst told the Washington Post, "Japanese people have a very simple question: Why have Americans reduced their troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War, and not here?" One major reason is to contain China and another is have troops nearby if North Korea invades South Korea.

By the mid 2000s, with threats coming from North Korea are tension rising with China, many Japanese soften their view on the presence of the U.S. military in Japan.

See Operation Tomodachi, 2011 Tsunami

Reducing the United States Military in Japan

There has been a lot of discussion about reducing the number of American troops in Japan and letting Japan make up the difference. In August, 2004 U.S. President George Bush announced plans to significantly cut the number of troops in Asia. The plan called for the reduction of 100,000-man force in Japan and South Korea by 15,000 to 25,000 troops, with 10,000 being withdrawn from Japan.

The realignment plan includes: 1) relocating the U.S. Marines from Futema Air Station in Okinawa; 2) merging and integrating bases in Okinawa; 3) making changes at the facilities at Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture; and 4) creating and economic stimulus package for municipalities near the U.S. bases.

Among other proposals that being considered are the relocation of U.S. Army 1st Corps Headquarters from Fort Lewis Washington to Camp Zawa in Japan, the integration of command functions of Yokota Air Base and Andersen base on Guam and the transfer of Marines from bases on Okinawa to Camp Zawa and other non-Okinawan bases.

In October 2006, it was estimated the cost to Japan of the U.S. military alignment would be ¥1.86 trillion. This is lower than the U.S. government’s initial estimate of ¥3 trillion.

In April 2007, the Japanese lower house passed the bill on U.S. force realignment.

United States Military in Okinawa

Nineteen percent of Okinawa is occupied by U.S. forces. Okinawa contains the largest contingent of Marines outside the United States, the largest U.S. Air Force base in Asia and a major port for the U.S. Seventh Fleet. About 50,000 Americans are stationed on Okinawa. They include 28,890 troops (2003), about two thirds of the American troops in Japan, of which 17,600 are Marines.

Known to American servicemen as "The Rock," Okinawa is the home of 30 separate facilities and American military installations, which cover about a fifth of the island. Japan pays most of the operating expenses for the bases. Among the largest facilities are Kadena Air Base, the largest air base in Asia, and home to 100 aircraft, including F-15 fighters, KC-135 airborne refueling tankers and F-22A Raptor stealth fighters; and Futenama Air Station, a Marine facility with 70 aircraft, mostly attack and transport helicopters.

Okinawa is valued by the American military because of its strategic location between Japan, Korea and Taiwan and the fact it is within easy striking distance of North Korea and China. One U.S. official told National Geographic, "North Korea is unstable and dangerous. China's military is growing; its future leadership — who knows? Peace in the region depends on American military presence. And there is no better place for that than Okinawa."

Image Sources: 1) 2) xorsyst blog 3) 4) 5) 6) Yokota Air Base 7) 8) Greenpeace Japan; 9) 10) 11) U.S. Miliarty Occupation fo Japan blog

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January October 2013

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