Japanese and U.S. officials affirmed the importance of the two countries' alliance for stability in the Asia-Pacific region as they wrapped up two days of preparatory talks Friday over updating the bilateral defense cost-sharing agreement, the Japanese government said.

Struggling to improve its fiscal condition, Tokyo is wary that Washington will pressure it to significantly increase its contribution to host American troops in Japan.

File photo of U.S. Marines in Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture. (Kyodo)

"We think that the current sharing of expenses to host U.S. military in Japan, based on the agreement between the Japanese and U.S. governments, is appropriate," Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a press conference earlier Friday.

"We intend to proceed with negotiations by taking into account the regional security environment, which is increasingly severe, and our country's strained fiscal situation," he said.

Japan and the United States need to renegotiate Tokyo's budget for hosting the U.S. military in the five years from April 2021 in place of the current deal, which expires in March.

Japan shoulders nearly 200 billion yen ($1.9 billion) annually for on-base utility fees, civilian labor costs and expenses related to relocating military drills.

In return, around 54,000 American troops stationed in Japan under a decades-old security treaty are obligated to protect the country's ally in a region where China is increasing its military clout and North Korea is developing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

In the meetings held via videoconference, Yutaka Arima, deputy director general for North American affairs at the Foreign Ministry, and Taro Yamato, deputy director general for defense policy at the Defense Ministry, took part from Japan, while Donna Welton, senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements at the State Department participated from the United States, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

With the U.S. presidential elections only a few weeks away and the deadline for drafting of Japan's initial budget for fiscal 2021 looming in December, the two countries may opt to sign a tentative one-year deal instead of the usual five-year arrangement, a source close to the matter said earlier.

Full-fledged talks are expected to begin after the Nov. 3 presidential election.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pressured Tokyo to significantly increase its contribution, saying the alliance as one-sided.

According to a book by John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, published earlier this year, the U.S. president has asked Japan to quadruple its contribution to $8 billion annually.

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