Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba revealed Friday evening that Tokyo and Washington have been holding talks on reviewing the 2006 bilateral accord over the realignment of U.S. bases in Japan.
“What the Japan-U.S. agreement is basically aiming for is to maintain deterrence and at the same time alleviate the burden on Okinawa. We are currently holding talks flexibly and taking a calm approach,” Genba said in a hastily convened news conference. “But I cannot say anything further because we are still in the middle of discussions.”
He meanwhile stressed that recent news reports that the U.S. is contemplating making some changes to the deal Tokyo and Washington agreed on to move 8,000 marines to Guam was “a misunderstanding,” but would neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the stories.
Genba responded to reporters’ questions with mainly vague remarks, but he said the Noda administration intends to stick to the current relocation plan.
“Both Japan and the U.S. remain unchanged in that we think relocating the Futenma base to Henoko is the best plan and that the number of marines who will remain in Okinawa will also be the same — 10,000,” Genba said.
Earlier this week, Kyodo News reported that out of the 8,000 marines that would be redeployed to Guam under the Futenma relocation plan, the U.S. was instead considering deploying some 3,000 of them elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, including Hawaii, because of Guam’s proximity to China.
On Friday, Bloomberg also reported that about half the marines would be rotated around the region, including Australia and Subic Bay in the Philippines, in line with Washington’s new defense strategy to increase the U.S. presence in Asia.
The bilateral 2006 realignment plan entailed shifting 8,000 marines and their dependants to Guam upon completion of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko coast in Nago farther north on Okinawa Island.
But the plan has stalled amid harsh opposition in Okinawa, where locals want the base moved outside the prefecture.
The U.S. Congress lost patience and decided to cut $150 million from the 2012 budget to move the marines.
Iran sanctions waiver
Japan may be granted some waivers from the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran in exchange for cutting oil imports from the Middle Eastern country, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba indicated Friday.