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Japan: Controversy over Payment for U.S. Military Bases

(June 2, 2008) The Japanese government has paid a large part of the expenses for U.S. military bases in Japan since 1978. Those expenses include housing, schools, and recreational facilities for U.S. soldiers and base employees, salaries of Japanese employees, utility bills, and expenses to relocate training sites. The opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, opposed a part of the renewal of the U.S. base support deal. The Democratic Party pointed out that it was inappropriate for Japan to pay the salaries of U.S. employees of leisure facilities. For example, the highest annual salaries paid in the past per type of occupation are:

• bartenders (total number 76): ¥5.49 million (US$528,000);

• club managers (total number 25): ¥7.14 million (US$687,000);

• party managers (total number 9): ¥5.76 million (US$554,000); and

• golf course maintenance workers (total number 47): ¥5.79 million (US$557,000).

In December 2007, the U.S. and Japanese governments concluded an agreement that requires Japan to pay some 140 billion yen annually to help run U.S. military bases in Japan for three years, from April 2008. After the Japanese House of Representatives, which is dominated by the ruling political parties, approved the agreement, the opposition-dominated House of Councillors rejected it on April 25, 2008. The House of Representatives approved it again one day later. In this situation, under Japan's Constitution, the decision of the House of Representatives prevails. The Cabinet made the decision to implement the agreement on April 30, 2008, and it came into force on May 1, 2008. This is the first time that either House has disapproved of an international agreement since the current Constitution became effective in 1947. (Omoiyari yosan 1 ka getsu okure no shonin [One Month Delay of Approval of the Sympathy Budget], SANKEI NEWSPAPER, Apr. 26, 2008 (on file with author); & Omoiyari yosan hakko [Sympathy Budget Became Effective], SANKEI NEWSPAPER, May 1, 2008 (on file with author).)