Emily Larsen, DCNF
President Donald Trump said at a rally in Iowa Tuesday night that the U.S. pays for 70 percent of Japan’s military.
The U.S. does not subsidize Japan’s defense forces. It does have many military bases in Japan, but Japan spends about nine times more on its defense than the U.S. military spends on its permanent military presence there.
Trump, who campaigned for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican Rep. David Young at the rally, cited the figure while talking about trade and defense relationships between the U.S. and other countries.
“But I said, look, we are protecting Japan,” he said. “And we subsidize their military. When I say subsidize, I’m not talking about like for 2 percent. We pay for 70 percent of their military. Nobody knows this.”
“I said to the prime minister, who’s a great guy, I said, ‘How come?’” Trump continued. “And he honestly says, ‘Nobody ever asked.’”
“The US does not contribute to this; this is solely funded by Japanese taxpayers,” Jeffrey W. Hornung, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation specializing in Japanese security and U.S. policies in the Asia-Pacific region, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “Thus, the statement that the US subsidizes Japan’s defense is inaccurate.”
It is unclear how Trump came up with the 70 percent figure. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. does have a sizable military presence in Japan, but far fewer troops than the Japanese SDF. Nearly 59,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel are on permanent duty on dozens of military bases across the archipelago.
“There is no question that this U.S. presence helps defend Japan, but it is not a subsidy as Japan is responsible for its own defense,” Hornung said.
A 2013 report from the Senate Committee on Armed Services mentioned a different 70 percent figure in relation to U.S. forces in Japan. Nearly 70 percent of the more than $10 billion per year that the U.S. spends on its permanent military presence overseas (not including personnel costs) is spent in Germany, South Korea and Japan, it found.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense estimated that the U.S. would spend around $5 billion on military personnel, operations, construction and family housing in Japan for fiscal year 2018. That is one-ninth of the size of Japan’s defense budget.
Japan incurs costs for direct and indirect U.S. military base-related support. Labor costs for the approximately 25,000 Japanese nationals working on the bases, as well as facility maintenance costs are shared by Japan in a “sympathy budget.”
A 2004 report from the Department of Defense found that Japan offset nearly 75 percent of the total cost of U.S. military bases in the country in 2002. Japan’s defense minister calculated a new estimate last year and found that Japan’s contribution accounted for about 86 percent of the costs, though this figure does not include certain U.S. expenditures like wages for military personnel. In 2016, The Japan Times calculated Japan’s cost burden at 48 percent.
Trump also mentioned a “rebalancing of financial commitments” with Asian allies in an April 2016 campaign speech.
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