Japan and the United States began a meeting Monday of senior diplomatic and defense officials to discuss the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa.
The two-day meeting through Tuesday in Tokyo is intended to map out the specifics of how to redeploy U.S. Marines based in Okinawa to Guam.
Japan and the United States are now in talks to review the 2006 road map on the realignment of forces in Okinawa under a bilateral security accord.
Under the plan, making tangible progress on relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from its current site in Ginowan to the Henoko coast of Nago at Camp Schwab farther north on Okinawa Island was a precondition for transferring around 8,000 of the 18,000-strong marine contingent and their dependents to Guam.
Tokyo and Washington have decided to delink the transfer to the planned 2014 operational completion of the Schwab replacement airstrip, which has been fiercely opposed by Okinawa residents.
The meeting, the second of its kind since Feb. 6, involves senior diplomatic and defense officials, including Takeo Akiba, deputy director general of the North American Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Zumwalt.
Of the 8,000 Okinawa marines subject to the redeployment, the Pentagon is considering moving about 4,700 to Guam, sources said.
At the current meeting, the senior officials are expected to discuss issues such as the unit composition and where else in the Pacific the remaining 3,300 marines will be moved.
Japan and the United States are aiming to work out a new version of the redeployment plan by around May.
Keeping ‘ball in play’
A U.S. envoy said Monday that he will “try to keep the ball in play back and forth” with North Korea, although the two countries produced no apparent breakthrough in nuclear disarmament talks last week.
“We shall see. . . . We will stay in touch with the North,” Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters in Tokyo when asked about the possibility of the two holding the next round of high-level talks in the near future.
Davies also said that the United States can get into contact through the North’s mission to the United Nations in New York “whenever we need to.”
Davies made the remarks after briefing Japanese officials about the first contact last week between the U.S. and the North since Kim Jong Il died..