Guam to shoulder F-15 flight drills

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa on Thursday notified Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima that Guam will host some of the drills involving Okinawa-based F-15 fighters, as part of efforts to ease the base-hosting burden on the prefecture.

Kitazawa told Nakaima the move would “definitely reduce” noise caused by such exercises and urged locals to realize that the state was striving to help Okinawa’s development while reducing its burden of hosting U.S. bases.

Nakaima took a cautious stance toward the move, saying, “Let me (first) take a look at the details (of the agreement) to see if the noise could be considerably reduced.”

He also renewed his call to the central government to review the Japan-U.S. accord struck in May stating that U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma will be relocated within the prefecture.

Japan will cover the cost of relocating the F-15 drills under a bilateral pact to partially move them from U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, so about 20 F-15s can take part in each drill on Guam, with each lasting up to 20 days. Support aircraft, including aerial tankers, will also have to take part in the drills. The U.S. military can conduct the drills alone or jointly with the Self-Defense Forces.

Kitazawa, who flew Wednesday to Okinawa for a two-day trip, also briefed Nakaima on another bilateral accord on starting preparations for a full return of the U.S. Marine Corps Gimbaru training area in the Okinawa town of Kin, and vowed to exert its utmost efforts to this end.