Congress Pressures Japan to Pay More of Defense Bill ANALYSIS

Article excerpt

BURDEN sharing is likely to be a major theme of US-Japan relations in 1991, with Congress playing an increasingly active role.

Congressional sources point to a growing feeling there that Japan is not paying its fair share of the East Asia defense burden. One result was this year's Defense Appropriations Act, which states that unless Tokyo agrees to foot the entire bill for the American military presence in Japan (except for the salaries), the United States should withdraw 5,000 troops a year from Japan.

President Bush signed the measure Nov. 5, along with a defense authorization bill with similar language but without sanctions. US and Japanese officials say they expect Mr. Bush to use the waiver authority granted him by law to avoid the actual withdrawal of troops, although the Pentagon has its own, less-drastic plan to reduce troop strength in the region. The US has about 62,000 service personnel based in Japan.

The US military is in Japan under the US-Japan security treaty, whereby the US pledges to help defend Japan against attack and Japan provides bases.

The US holds a nuclear umbrella over Japan, as it does over all its allies. And US air and naval power provide Japan with the offensive capabilities its own Constitution forbids. Washington difference of opinion

But the ease with which the demand for greater burden-sharing passed Congress shows that US legislators by no means agree with their government on this issue. At a time when the US economy is in recession and Congress and the White House have spent long hours arguing how to cut the whopping budget deficit, there is increasing impatience with the argument that the defense of Japan is a burden to be shared equally by Tokyo and Washington.

The American military presence in Japan costs $7.4 billion, Washington sources say. Of this sum, the US pays $4.5 billion and Japan $2.9 billion. The two governments are in the process of discussions that will increase Japan's share to 50 percent or slightly more, compared with 40 percent today.

To go any further, Japanese government sources say, would be to turn US military personnel in Japan into mercenaries rather than allies. …