High-level talks on base relocation with U.S. officials planned for February

Kyodo

Senior Japanese and U.S. officials plan to meet in early February in Tokyo to discuss the U.S. Futenma base’s relocation in Okinawa, according to the top U.S. diplomat for East Asian policy.

Kurt Campbell told reporters in Washington that Japan and the United States will continue concerted efforts to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture, despite mounting difficulties.

Tokyo and Washington are making arrangements for the talks, which will involve officials at the director general level from the Foreign and Defense ministries and high-ranking envoys from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, according to sources.

Campbell, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said building a replacement facility for the Futenma base at Okinawa Island’s Nago district is “the appropriate step forward.”

Washington’s position on the issue “remains the same” despite the many obstacles that have long stalled the move, Campbell added.

“I think the U.S. and Japanese governments are determined to make a push in 2012 to work closely together,” he said.

He also revealed that the U.S. government is planning to gift 3,000 Virginia dogwood seedlings to Japan to mark the 100th anniversary of Tokyo sending 3,000 cherry trees to Washington in 1912.

Tokyo’s then mayor, Yukio Ozaki, sent the cherry trees as a present to the U.S. following a request by then-first lady Helen Taft.

After they arrived, the first lady helped plant the first two trees on the banks of the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. In 1915, the United States reciprocated by sending Japan a flowering dogwood.