Defense launches U.S. realignment teams

Kyodo

The Defense Ministry has set up four teams to expedite the stalled realignment of U.S. forces here.

One will coordinate and oversee all realignment issues, while the other three will handle relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, moving thousands of marines in Okinawa to Guam, and transferring the U.S carrier aircraft landing and takeoff practices to Mage Island off Kagoshima Prefecture.

The teams will devise policies and conduct liaison work with the U.S. government and local governments in Japan, the ministry said.

Senior Defense Ministry official Ayako Kimura will head the two teams in charge of overall planning and the Futenma move. She was headhunted by the ministry in early June from her post as political specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and was appointed as a director-level counselor in the defense minister’s secretariat.

Moving Futenma from Ginowan to Nago, farther north on Okinawa Island, has been deadlocked by strong local opposition.

Joint minesweeping drill

The Maritime Self-Defense Force will participate for the first time in a joint minesweeping exercise with the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy near Bahrain in October, according to MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Masahiko Sugimoto.