With the Republican nomination for this fall’s U.S. presidential election all but locked in, Donald Trump caused a major stir again in Japan when he said Tokyo should pay for all the costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan, or Japan will have to “defend themselves.”
The Japanese government promptly dismissed Trump’s remark as “unrealistic.” True, Trump’s statement is yet another reflection of his gross lack of basic knowledge (much less experience) in foreign policy. Even President Barack Obama could not restrain himself from joking about this during his White House Correspondence Dinner speech, suggesting that “there’s one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable – and that’s closing Guantanamo. Because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.”
Indeed, Trump’s accusation is far from the truth: Japan pays a considerable amount of money to cover the cost of U.S. forces stationed in Japan. On April 1, 2016, the revised host nation support agreement took effect, under which the size of the host nation support that Japan will shoulder over the next five years—approximately $1.6 billion per year—slightly increased compared to the previous five years. In terms of covering the cost for U.S. forces overseas, Japan is by far the most generous ally, covering at least approximately 75 percent of the operation costs for U.S. Forces in Japan. So, purely in dollar terms, Japan clearly pays its share.