Japan's Finance Ministry seeks cuts in host-nation spending for US military

US soldiers salute as the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sails into the US Navy base in Yokosuka on Oct 1, 2015.
US soldiers salute as the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sails into the US Navy base in Yokosuka on Oct 1, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's Ministry of Finance on Monday (Oct 26) called for cuts in the country's budget spending for US forces stationed in Japan in a bid to restore public finances, a move likely to meet opposition from its key ally Washington.

The move comes after passage of bills last month that aim to tighten the alliance and give Japanese military the biggest global role since the World War II, with Washington seeking greater Asia-Pacific security in the face of rising China.

Japan's contribution, or the "sympathy budget", to cover salaries for workers at US bases, utilities and training expenses, hit 189.9 billion yen (S$2.2 billion) for the current fiscal year, versus a 4.98 trillion yen overall defence outlay.

Tokyo also shoulders a big share of expenses for realignment of US forces in Japan, which have led to steady rises in its overall US military-related spending in recent years. "Taking into account the expansion of Japan's role through the new security legislation, the yen weakening and the severe fiscal situation, such expenses need to be reviewed and reduced," the ministry said.

The proposal was presented at an advisory panel to Finance Minister Taro Aso on Monday for discussion as it deliberates on an annual budget for fiscal 2016, to be compiled in December.

The "sympathy budget" began in 1978 against a backdrop of a rapid yen strength, rising inflation in Japan and a worsening fiscal situation in the United States.

Japan and the US review this budget every five years by concluding an accord. They aim to strike a new deal by the year end to replace the current one that expires next March.