The U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security came into force on June 23, 1960. Under the Treaty, Japan hosts a carrier battle group, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 5th Air Force, and elements of the Army's I Corps. Since the end of U.S. occupation in 1952, U.S. military forces in Japan have decreased from more than 260,000 to fewer than 50,000. More than half of them are stationed in Okinawa. Japan's Host Nation Support (HNS) -- more than $4 billion a year -- helps to defray the costs of maintaining these forces in Japan.
Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have gradually expanded capabilities and assumed primary responsibility for the immediate conventional national defense. The SDF mission, which the United States supports, is the defense of Japan's homeland, territorial seas and skies, and sea lines of communication out to 1,000 nautical miles. As a matter of policy, Japan has forsworn nuclear armaments and forbids arms sales abroad.
The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of the defense of Japan and of U.S. security strategy in East Asia. In April 1996, during President Clinton's state visit to Japan, the president and Prime Minister Hashimoto issued a joint security declaration which noted the achievements of the bilateral alliance in promoting peace and stability for all nations in the Asia-Pacific region. In September 1997, the United States and Japan approved new guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation. These new guidelines will facilitate greater cooperation in areas such as logistical support, and search and rescue operations following disasters.
While in Japan, all active duty military personnel, including reservists on active duty training, are subject to both U.S. and Japanese laws. Members of the U.S. forces in Japan have certain rights, privileges, and special protections which have been accorded by the SOFA. In return, the SOFA makes it the duty of all members of the U.S. forces to respect the laws of Japan and to abstain from any activities inconsistent with the spirit of the Agreement.
Japanese authorities have the primary right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of the U.S. Armed Forces for most criminal offenses. A soldier who becomes involved in an incident should contact the nearest U.S. or JSDF MP office. Personnel apprehended off-post by the Japanese police may be detained in Japanese custody for up to 23 days. The Japanese police are required to notify U.S. authorities immediately of such custody, but are not required to transfer custody. Narcotics offenses, including even small amounts of marijuana, are severely dealt with under Japanese law. If a U.S. military member is under investigation, he/she will be placed on administrative hold by the USARJ Commander, and will not be allowed to leave Japan.
It should be mentioned that among ordinary bars there are some where American soldiers are not welcome. These may have signs saying, "Foreigners Not Welcome" or "Japanese Only." Discrimination exists in Japan and proprietors are not required to open their doors to everyone as they are in the United States. There are various reasons ranging from a personal dislike of foreigners, to politics, to anti-military sentiment, to purely business reasons. Some proprietors simply want to maintain the status quo in their bars. You may never return to that particular bar and the proprietors depend on the clientele they have built up for their establishment's survival. They cannot afford to offend their steady customers and they may decide simply not to permit foreigners inside.
In January 2003 Japan and the United States reached a basic agreement to start talks on the return of idle land in four US military facilities in Yokohama. The US military facilities targeted for negotiation are the Kamiseya communications facility, which occupies 242.2 hectares in Seya Ward; the Negishi residential zone, a 43.1-hectare facility in Naka Ward; the Tomioka storage area, a 2.9-hectare facility in Kanazawa Ward; and the Fukaya communications facility, a 77.4-hectare unit in Totsuka Ward.
In mid-2003 American military officials were discussing consolidating or closing some US bases near Tokyo. However, Japanese and U.S. officials would not confirm media reports saying an agreement is near on specific proposals. One report said the Navy's Negishi housing area in Yokohama would be combined with the Ikego Heights housing area in Zushi.
The the U.S.-Japan joint committee agreed to focus on the 11 US Naval facilities in Kanagawa prefecture. The Japanese media reports also named the communications facility at Kamiseya, a warehouse facility in Tomioka and a communications center in Fukaya.
The number of military bases in Japan designated for use by both the Self-Defense Forces and US troops may be increased as part of the planned realignment of US military capabilities. The ASDF's Air Defense Command (ADC) and Air Support Command (ASC) headquarters, both now based in Fuchu, Tokyo, would be shifted to the USAF's Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. some of the ASDF's facilities in Naha may shift to Kadena. Shimojijima island in southeastern Okinawa Prefecture is being considered as a base for joint military drills.
The ASDF and the USAF already share Misawa Air Base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, while the Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps use the GSDF's Higashi-Fuji Training Range in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, and the Yausubetsu Training Range in eastern Hokkaido for joint military drills.
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