Reappointed to a second term as Defense Agency chief, Fumio Kyuma reaffirmed that he will complete the review of the Japan-U.S. defense guidelines and implement the relocation of the U.S. Marines’ Futenma Air Station in central Okinawa.

With the review to be completed on Sept. 24, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s new Cabinet must thoroughly examine Japan’s ability to cooperate with the U.S. under the current legislation, Kyuma said in a joint interview with reporters.

To put the guidelines into practice, Kyuma said his agency will cooperate with other interested government offices in setting up liaison deliberation bodies at the section chief and bureau chief levels immediately after the final report comes out, and introduce relevant bills during the next regular Diet session.

The 1978 bilateral defense guidelines are based mainly on the assumption of Japan being directly attacked, but the situation has changed over the past two decades, he said.

Kyuma said that uncertain elements still exist in areas surrounding Japan. Although Russia has reduced its military since the end of the Cold War, the Korean Peninsula remains in a tense and unclear situation, he noted.

The agency chief also expressed concern that various countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been taking advantage of their remarkable economic growth and are modernizing their naval and air forces.

As for the geographical scope of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, Kyuma reiterated that the guidelines wouldn’t target any specific countries or areas such as the Taiwan Strait.

To allay China’s concern, Kyuma said he will work to gain its understanding by sharing the content of the reviewed guidelines.

Kyuma said he will take a “forward-looking” approach at the issues surrounding U.S. military bases in Okinawa, linking the pending relocation of the Futenma facility with promotion of the local economy.

As head of the government’s newly established headquarters over the Futenma issue, Kyuma said he will earnestly appeal to the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the city of Nago — the prime candidate site for an alternative sea-based heliport — on how the relocation would help promote the local economy and development of the subtropical island prefecture.

Kyuma’s careless comment revealing Nago as the candidate site made the Futenma issue a stumbling block late last year. But he has displayed administrative skill in such cases as his successful shifting of the U.S. Marines’ live-firing drills out of Okinawa and transferring KC-130 tanker aircraft from Futenma to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Iwakuni Air Station.

His positions as Nagasaki prefectural assemblyman and local government official have made him well versed in local administration.

Although a rank amateur in the field of security and defense before he first assumed the current post last November, Kyuma has displayed an “animal instinct” in negotiating with local governments over base issues, according to a high-ranking agency official.

Kyuma said his agency needs various positive ideas from local governments to expedite the relocation of the Futenma facility.

To promote realignment of U.S. bases in Okinawa, Kyuma called on concerned local governments nationwide to seek a flexible solution rather than simply advocating an immediate pullout of all the bases.

He said he acknowledges the importance of the U.S.-proposed Theater Missile Defense system for Japan’s defense.

But although his agency requested 82 million yen for the fiscal 1998 budget to study the TMD system, Kyuma said his defense agency has yet to decide whether to participate in the joint development of the system.

Kyuma stressed the need for closer exchange of defense officials and uniformed officers with neighboring countries to build a peaceful environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asked about the planned reform of the government ministries and agencies, Kyuma indicated that his agency should be upgraded to the status of Defense Ministry, saying that the agency is in charge of basic national policies and that such a status would raise the morale of the Self-Defense Forces.

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