National

Extra squadrons pitched for U.S. Yokota Air Base

The United States has informally proposed integrating a U.S. air base on Guam into the U.S. Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo, government sources said Thursday.

At the same time, Japan has tabled a plan to consolidate two operations of the Air Self-Defense Force in Fuchu, western Tokyo, and relocate them to nearby Yokota, the sources said.

If realized, the proposed realignments would boost the air defense capability of the Yokota base and make it a core facility for the United States and Japan covering the Asia-Pacific region, they said.

Diplomats and senior defense officials from the two countries are expected to discuss the possible realignment plans in two-day bilateral talks that start Thursday in San Francisco, they said.

The talks in San Francisco will be attended by Yasumasa Nagamine, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, and Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs.

The United States plans to dissolve the 13th Air Force on Guam and integrate its functions into the 5th Air Force at the Yokota base in western Tokyo, the sources said.

Japan, for its part, is considering relocating the ASDF’s Air Defense Command and Air Support Command, both in Fuchu, to nearby Yokota.

The ADC, which operates F-15 jet fighters and a missile command, is directly involved in the defense of Japan’s airspace. The ASC mainly handles transport and logistics missions, including the operation of C-130 transport airplanes currently being used for reconstruction aid efforts for Iraq.

Observers said bringing the two organizations to Yokota would not only improve cooperation between Japan and Washington on airspace defense but would also help smooth bilateral coordination with a view to increasing overseas SDF dispatches to enhance Japan’s contribution to international operations.

The United States is also considering other plans, including relocating part of the U.S. Marine Corps contingent in Okinawa Prefecture to Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, and relocating an army brigade in Washington state to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture, the sources said.

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