WASHINGTON – The United States is ready to hold strategic defense talks with the incoming government of Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe, who is set to be elected Japan’s seventh prime minister in six years next week, a senior Department of Defense official said Wednesday.
The United States and the Democratic Party of Japan-led government agreed last month to launch the defense talks. They may include a review of the guidelines on cooperation between the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces — an apparent response to China’s military expansion and growing maritime presence.
“We are interested in continuing the very good momentum that has been built up over the past several months on this issue,” the official said.
While noting that Washington has to “wait and see” what the stance of Abe’s government is going to be, the official said, “We continue to be ready to move forward on these very important initiatives.”
Bars want sailors back
A group of residents in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, has urged the commander of the U.S. Navy base in the city to ease disciplinary measures — including a nighttime curfew — recently imposed on military personnel in Japan because they are having an adverse impact on bars and restaurants.
The measures were imposed after a woman in Okinawa was allegedly raped by two U.S. sailors in October.
Responding to the request, filed Wednesday, the commanding officer, Capt. David Owen, said he will send it up the chain of command and that the U.S. military is taking the Okinawa incident seriously.
A similar request was filed by bar and restaurant owners in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, which also hosts a naval base.