Suga-Biden Phone Conference: Toward Building a New Relationship

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had his first phone conference with former Democratic U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The recent change in top political leadership in both countries is also a good opportunity for building a new relationship. We hope that the leaders will diligently strengthen this cooperative link in order to establish regional stability and address global issues.

Biden, who secured a victory in the U.S. presidential election, has already had telephone conferences with the leaders of Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Ireland; yesterday, he met with Suga, as well as Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

This series of phone calls is part of the Biden administration’s plan to lay the groundwork for diplomatic relationships during the transition of power, but as far as Japan is concerned, it signals a separation from the current president, Donald Trump, who has yet to issue a statement accepting his defeat.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe built a mutual relationship of trust with Trump. There are no fundamental objections to hoping for a good relationship between the two leaders.

However, what appeared to be a honeymoon phase could possibly lead the relationship in the wrong direction. In the case of the Abe administration, one example is the mass purchase of costly U.S.-made arms, such as the F35 fighter jet and the Osprey aircraft, at the behest of Trump, who placed great emphasis on U.S. domestic industry. Since both countries are undergoing a change in administration, why not reexamine the value and scope of such purchases?

Negotiations have begun concerning Japan’s financial role in the cost-sharing budget for hosting U.S. troops, which expires at the end of March next year. Trump has said that the U.S. has called on all of its allies to increase their share of costs, and is asking for Japan to increase its share to $8 billion a year, four times the current yearly outlay.

Since 2016, over a five-year period, Japan’s total expenses for cost-sharing were 946.5 billion yen, at an average of 189.3 billion yen per year, but actually, besides the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, it is a one-sided burden on Japan’s part.

In addition to the cost-sharing budget, Japan also has responsibility for the rent money for U.S. military facilities, the cost of security measures in areas surrounding U.S. bases and expenses related to the U.S. Army reorganization plan. If the cost of U.S. base subsidies outside of the Ministry of Defense’s jurisdiction are added in, Japan’s yearly expenses reach up to 800 billion yen. We would like the situation to be politely explained to the incoming Biden administration.

Biden expressed to Suga “his deep commitment to the defense of Japan and U.S. commitments under Article V,” confirming that Article V also covers the Senkaku Islands, including Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture. We understand that the Biden administration has demonstrated an intention to be a proactive participant in stability in East Asia, keeping a watchful eye on China, which has been continuing its maritime expansion and arms buildup. Finding a resolution to North Korea’s abduction, nuclear and missile problems is also a pressing issue. We would welcome any detente that a strengthened U.S.-Japan alliance can bring to these regional tensions.

We must not overlook the fact that much of the heavy burden of U.S.-Japan security falls upon Okinawa. The birth of this new administration is a good chance to reexamine prefectural citizens’ opposition to construction of the new U.S. base at Henoko. We hope for the evolution of a new U.S.-Japan relationship that is supported by democracy.

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About Dorothy Phoenix 110 Articles
Dorothy is an independent video game developer, software engineer, technical writer, and tutor, with experience teaching students how to program and make games. In addition to programming and video games, Dorothy also enjoys studying Japanese language and culture. One of her goals is to exhibit a game at the Tokyo Game Show someday.

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