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Host Nation Support Vital to Maintaining Alliances

Host Nation Support Vital to Maintaining Alliances, Fighting Threats

(Overview of host nation support in Asia-Pacific region) (990)

Because the post-Cold War world is as unpredictable and dangerous as ever, alliances and international cooperative efforts are crucial to maintaining security.

Regional aggressors are just one part of the threat scenario. Terrorism, international crime, drug trafficking, uncontrolled refugee migrations, weapons of mass destruction, and proliferation of non-safeguarded dual-use technologies are security concerns as well.

Cooperative security arrangements enable the United States and its allies to provide the stability necessary for democracy-building, economic progress, and the orderly resolution of conflicts. The cornerstone of this stability is equitable sharing of mutual security responsibilities.

"Host nation support" is the term used to describe the financial support provided by allies towards maintaining forward-deployed U.S. military forces on their soil.

For example, in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and the Republic of Korea are the top two U.S. security allies. At the heart of both alliances is the continued presence of significant numbers of U.S. troops: some 47,000 in Japan and more than 36,000 in South Korea. These forces are a tangible expression of vital American interests in Asia and the ability to defend those interests. By supporting the presence of these forces, Japan and South Korea declare their commitment to maintaining defense and deterrence in the region.

Under the five-year (1996-2001) U.S.-Japan Special Measures Agreement (SMA), Japan pays virtually all of the costs of local national labor employed by U.S. forces, as well as the costs of public utilities on U.S. bases. The United States shoulders the costs of operating and maintaining its ships and planes stationed in Japan as well as the salaries, supply and transportation needs for American troops.

So far the total SMA costs for Japan have averaged less than one quarter of 1 percent of its national budget. The United States, in contrast, spends about 3 percent of its gross domestic product on maintaining its defense capabilities.

The United States considers Japan an equal partner in maintaining Asia-Pacific stability, but each country makes different but complementary contributions to that partnership.

Japan provides for its own defense forces and, through multilateral channels, supports crisis management and nation-building efforts around the world. Japan also provides huge amounts of foreign assistance in support of regional security.

In particular, Japan has contributed millions of dollars to support nuclear nonproliferation efforts on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea remains one of the world's most volatile nations and Asia's top "hot spot."

In 1998, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Pacific Ocean, raising concerns across Asia. In 1999, North Korea threatened to test-launch a more advanced missile with a longer range and greater accuracy.

More than one million North Korean troops serve on active duty, the vast majority deployed within hours of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. North Korea continues military infiltration efforts into South Korea and has threatened to walk away from the Agreed Framework it signed with the United States in 1994 that curtails its nuclear production program. In addition, North Korea is believed to possess substantial chemical and biological weapons capability.

South Korea's security concerns focus primarily on bolstering defenses against its dangerous northern neighbor. In 1998, the Republic of Korea devoted 3.2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense. South Korea's annual defense spending has grown by 36 percent since 1990, compared to a decline of nearly 25 percent for all other Pacific and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) nations combined.

Under its own Special Measures Agreement with the United States, the Republic of Korea agreed to contribute $333 million for 1999, with increases in 2000 and 2001 based on the growth of its gross national product and inflation.

Economic constraints limit South Korea's ability to make large contributions to foreign assistance. However, since 1995, the Republic of Korea has contributed $45 million in the form of loans to support shared nonproliferation goals under the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework.

Also in conjunction with the Agreed Framework, the Republic of Korea will contribute 70 percent of the estimated $4.6 billion required to build two light-water nuclear reactors to replace North Korea's more dangerous gas-graphite reactors. Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea ended the operations of its existing nuclear reactors, which were capable of producing nuclear materials for the construction of weapons, with the agreement that these would be replaced by safer reactors that would help meet its electrical energy needs.

Both Japan and the Republic of Korea are under constraints that influence their policies and capabilities in the area of defense -- South Korea must focus on the division of the peninsula and threats from North Korea; Japan is under constitutional restrictions that strictly limit the scope of its military activities. Nonetheless, their contributions to maintaining an American forward-deployed military presence are critical to the U.S. ability to defend the shared interests of its allies.

The American vision for the Asia-Pacific region is based on the principles of shared strength, shared prosperity, and shared commitment to democratic values. Host nation support from allies like Japan and the Republic of Korea, frees up resources democracy-building, economic initiatives, and conflict resolution -- efforts that are so necessary to maintaining regional and global stability in the post-Cold War world.

Host nation support enables the United States to build upon its partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. It helps shape the region's future, prevent conflict and provide the stability and access that allows the conduct of approximately $500,000 million a year in trans-Pacific trade. The United States is committed to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, and host nation support by our allies helps underwrite that commitment.

(This overview was written by Jane A. Morse, Washington File Staff Writer. The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)

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