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The government said Friday it does not believe a reported U.S. plan to reduce the American military presence in South Korea will immediately mean soldiers there will be posted to Japan, but it wants Washington to provide more details.

“The (main part) of the U.S. forces in South Korea is the ground force to defend it from North Korea. It would be pointless to shift it to bases in the main islands of Japan and Okinawa,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

“It is an issue that concerns Japan as well, so we want to hear about it in detail,” another official in the ministry said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did not elaborate and only told reporters at his office that the matter was being negotiated between the U.S. and South Korea.

The reactions in Tokyo came after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commented Thursday on the possibility of reducing the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

Rumsfeld told a congressional hearing that the Pentagon has been considering moving U.S. forces away from areas near the border between the Koreas.

“I would like to see a number of our forces move away from the Seoul area and from near the DMZ (demilitarized zone), and be more oriented toward an air hub and a sea hub,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Rumsfeld added that “with our improved capabilities of moving people, some of those forces (could) come home.”

Japan and the U.S. have been discussing reviewing the presence of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region, most recently during ministerial security talks in Washington in December.

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