TOKYO: The Japanese government plans to wait until at least autumn this year before starting full-fledged talks with the United States on sharing costs for US troops stationed in Japan, sources familiar with the matter said.
Japan sees no need to hurry before November’s US presidential election and as similar cost-sharing talks between the United States and South Korea have been stalled, the sources said.
The talks between Tokyo and Washington will determine how much Japan will pay for US troops in the country over the five years from fiscal 2021, which starts in April next year.
“Japanese officials believe that there is no need to act before the outcome of the US presidential election is known,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is taking a lead over US President Donald Trump in opinion polls, “puts more emphasis on relations with allies, including Japan, than Trump,” a Japanese government source said, suggesting that Tokyo should not act hastily.
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has been consistently urging US allies to pay more for hosting US troops.
In his memoir published in June, former US National Security Adviser John Bolton revealed that during his visit to Japan in July last year, he demanded Tokyo more than quadruple its payments to 8 billion dollars a year.
“The request was not made in formal negotiations,” a Japanese government source said. Tokyo plans to buy time until the US presidential election and wait for the situation to get better, the sources said.
The talks between the United States and South Korea started in autumn last year. Washington reportedly presented options for cutting US troops in South Korea to pressure it into accepting a large increase in payments, provoking a backlash from Seoul.
“Unless the US-South Korea talks are concluded, the United States can’t even start talks with Japan,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry source said.