Japan, US agree to extend deal on military base payments

Washington and Tokyo have decided to extend an agreement on Japanese financial support for thousands of US troops stationed in the country.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the agreement, which had been due to expire next month, would be extended for a year.

The current five-year accord was set to end after March 2021, but will now run through March 2022.

The Kyodo news agency reported that both governments were expected to sign the agreement soon.

Former President Donald Trump of the United States had upped the pressure on Tokyo to quadruple its payments for US troops to eight billion dollars.

Trump had also asked South Korea for a similar price hike.

Japan and South Korea pay the United States billions of dollars to cover the cost of keeping US troops there, primarily under bilateral special measures agreements that are traditionally negotiated every five years.

In Japan, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet is deployed as well as the Third Marine Expeditionary Force.

In addition to defending its key ally Japan, the US military units use the archipelago as a base for operations in the wider Asia-Pacific region, where US military power has sought to act as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence.

Japanese people in recent years have raised their voice of protest against the presence of US troops.

The southern island of Okinawa is a major hub of anti-US movement. There, locals are trying to obstruct the construction of a new American base.

According to a relocation plan, the state-of-the-art airbase will be built in the waters off the island over the coming years to replace the Futenma base.

The US Forces Japan says nearly half of about 100,000 US troops in Japan reside in Okinawa.

The Japanese and US governments have pursued the relocation of Futenma to the less populated Henoko coastal area in the Okinawa city of Nago.

Multiple cases of misconduct by US forces, featuring several rape cases and murder of a 20-year-old woman in 2016, has led to a deeper anti-American sentiment among the pacifist islanders.

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