A report that was released by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week found that the US spent more than $34 billion to maintain its massive military presence in Japan and South Korea between 2016 and 2019.
In Japan, Washington has approximately 55,000 troops, the largest forward deployment of US forces anywhere in the world. From 2016 to 2019, the GAO report found that the Pentagon spent $20.9 billion on its presence in Japan, and Tokyo contributed $12.6 billion to support the US presence.
The US has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. From 2016 to 2019, the US military obligated $13.4 billion to house troops in the country, and Seoul contributed about $5.6 billion in support.
The GAO report was required by Congress through the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Trump Administration pressured both countries to pay more to house US troops. Last month, the Biden Administration reached a cost-sharing deal with South Korea. Seoul agreed to an increase of 13.9 percent in spending for 2021, which is much lower than what President Trump was calling for.
In an effort to negotiate more cost-sharing, Trump threatened to remove some of the 28,500 troops from South Korea. This caused Congress to include an amendment in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that limits funding for potential South Korea troops drawdowns.
With the US increasingly focused on countering China in Asia, there’s little chance that troop numbers will decrease in Japan or South Korea. If anything, the US military will expand its footprint. The Pentagon is looking an extra $27 billion to spend on the Indo-Pacific Command.