Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said Thursday she is prepared to consider Okinawa Prefecture’s demand that some U.S. Marine drills on the islands be moved overseas.
She added that she will raise the issue when she makes a planned visit to the United States later this month.
Speaking at the Lower House Committee on Security, Tanaka said, “There is room to discuss and study (Okinawa’s demand).
“When I visit the United States, I will propose the idea and hear their opinions.”
Tanaka also said that, during her visit, she will point out that some experts in the U.S. have also suggested shifting some of the marines’ drills from Okinawa.
The relocation demand was initially made by former Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota.
Keiichi Inamine, the prefecture’s current governor, also said in February that he will seek to have at least some of the drills conducted in Okinawa relocated to Guam.
Tanaka is the first member of the Japanese government to comment on the matter.
Previously, Tokyo has merely repeated its commitment to reducing the burden shouldered by Okinawa.
The prefecture, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of the country’s territory, provides 75 percent of the land occupied by U.S. forces in Japan.
It hosts 25,000 members of the U.S. military and more than half the 47,000 marines stationed in Japan.
Joseph Nye, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense, said in an interview with Kyodo News in March that Japan and the U.S. should start examining the possibility of relocating some marine officers to Guam, depending on the state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula.
Tanaka also emphasized her policy of exchanging views with Washington regarding the countries’ policies toward North Korea, saying that coordination between Japan, U.S. and South Korea is a vital part of settling North Korea-related issues.
She made the remarks in response to questions by Eisei Ito and Shu Watanabe, Lower House members of the Democratic Party of Japan, the nations largest opposition party.
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