Japan OKs Bigger Budget to Host US Forces, Step Up Alliance

Japan OKs Bigger Budget to Host US Forces, Step Up Alliance

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's parliament on Friday approved a new agreement with the United States, endorsing Japanese government spending exceeding 1 trillion yen ($8 billion) for hosting U.S. troops as the two sides strengthen their military alliance in the face of growing threat from China and North Korea in the region.

The 1.05 trillion yen ($8.6 billion) host nation support budget covers the purchase of advanced arsenals used in their joint military exercises, as well as utilities and facilities used by the U.S. troops and their Japanese employees working on American bases in the country through March 2027.

The upcoming five-year budget includes a new funding category of up to 20 billion yen ($164 million) for the purchase of advanced virtual combat training systems for joint exercises between the two forces.

The roughly 200 billion yen ($1.6 billion) for the first year is included in the fiscal 2022 national defense budget -- a record 5.4 trillion yen ($44 billion) -- beginning in April.

Japan's government now describes the host-nation support budget as necessary for strengthening the alliance, rather than for "kindness" as it used to be considered.

Japan has been expanding its defense budget and capability for about a decade and is now revising its key national security strategy in the face of threats from China, North Korea and now Russia.

Japan is especially concerned about Chinese military activity in waters in the East China Sea surrounding the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing also claims and calls Diaoyu.

Japan has significantly expanded its joint drills with the United States as well as other partners including Australia, India, France, Britain and Germany that share concern about China's push for its territorial claims in the region, which has some of the world's busiest sea lanes.