What happens if Japan refuses to pay the U.S. for its military presence? Is there a procedure for such a situation? Or would the U.S. simply pull its troops out of Japan and let Japan fend for itself? I am asking because at a certain point Japan might prefer to defend itself considering the U.S. might not remain a reliable ally.

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    It is good to add some context to the question so I've edited to include a link to a media site describing "host nation support".
    – James K
    Aug 17 '19 at 23:00
  • The existence or not of a procedure considering this possibility is on-topic, but "what would happen" is off-topic because we do not know what would happen in that case (even if there were an agreement in place, we cannot know if it would be honored). Hypothetical questions and questions about future events are off-topic. Please edit the question to avoid the hypothetical part.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 18 '19 at 11:11
  • The US has the military power to establish and keep bases almost anywhere on the world it pleases to (minus Russia and China).
    – gerrit
    Aug 18 '19 at 16:17
  • @JamesK, very revealing link - which raises the question: Has Japan threatened to "not" pay?
    – BobE
    Aug 18 '19 at 16:30
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    Emm, mistake, it is not the GDP, but 5% of the Japan fiscal budget.
    – mootmoot
    Aug 22 '19 at 16:05

The US has bases like Kadena Air Base (or for that matter Ramstein in Germany) not solely for the protection of the host countries. These bases are part of a web which allows the US global influence and power projection. So the US would have to think hard how much the bases on Japanese soil are worth to them.

They might have lawyers look into the terms of the bases, too. Cuba is no longer happy about Guantanamo, but the lease has no end date. But I can't really see such a scenario vs. Japan.

The Philippines threw the US out of Subic Bay because the US didn't want to pay enough for the lease. This could be seen as a precedent that the US is actually willing to walk away from a base, or it could be one less alternative option in the region. Are Guam and Korea enough? So perhaps the outcome could be a three-sided bidding between the US, Japan, and South Korea. How many bases, and where, against which security guarantees, and who pays whom how much. Compare the recent suggestions that the US should relocate from Germany to Poland.

As a side note, the only thing stopping Japan from becoming a nuclear power are domestic and international politics. It is in the interest of the United States and in the interest of world peace to keep it that way, and a credible "nuclear umbrella" helps in this regard.

  • In the above the word "domestic" in the sentence "the only thing stopping Japan from becoming a nuclear power are domestic and international politics.", might have deserved all-caps ;-) ... a party wanting to spend to money, desperately needed to cope with the ageing society, on nukes, would not get into a position to decide on those funds... also because a big % of the voters have a close connection to the WW2 era. [=old population, correlation between age and voting activity, family/tradition-oriented culture].
    – Tuomo
    Aug 18 '19 at 13:53
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    @Tuomo, I would think the distaste/revulsion factor is much more relevant than the financial factor. Japan might not talk about it much, but they have a space industry, they have a nuclear industry, and they have tonnes of plutonium. I would be surprised if their national security establishment didn't have people who can tell genuine bomb blueprints from fake ones. That's called a "virtual nuclear arsenal."
    – o.m.
    Aug 18 '19 at 14:12
  • I agree with esp the latter part of your above comment, but what comes to the way the people who exercise their right to vote in the elections, I hesitate where line between under- vs. over-estimating their motivators go.
    – Tuomo
    Aug 18 '19 at 14:17
  • Sorry for being unclear. With the "close connection to the WW2" era I meant that also those memories do make the voters very much against having a Japanese neuclear arsenal.
    – Tuomo
    Aug 18 '19 at 14:27

At some point, the US administration would have to make the judgement: "are the benefits of our continued presence in Japan worth the cost?" Indeed there is likely to be an ongoing cost-benefit analysis of any military deployment.

The benefits are complex and in some ways intangible: There is the projection of power across the Pacific. The maintenance of an effective alliance with Japan. The support of a government that tends to support the USA. The costs are both financial and matters of risk. That is the risk getting drawn into an Asian war and risks of causing issues with Japan's neighbours.

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    maybe just a bit too sensitive, but my reaction to your opinion is that US administrations should be (and should have been) continuously evaluating the cost/benefit. Some administrations may place zero value on alliances, other administrations may consider alliances to be very valuable. Consider modifying your answer to reflect that US should always evaluate, not suggest that at some future time an evaluation would have to be made.
    – BobE
    Aug 17 '19 at 23:36
  • I've edited to reflect that. Not "should" but "does" (always evaluate any military deployment)
    – James K
    Aug 18 '19 at 10:36
  • Also relevant: setting an example to avoid every other host nation refusing as well Aug 19 '19 at 20:21

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