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U.S. withdraws bulk of realignment of armed forces proposals

The United States has withdrawn most of its specific proposals for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, Japanese government officials said Tuesday.

They said the U.S. government informed Japan of the withdrawal through its embassy in Tokyo on Monday, along with its plan to renegotiate the realignment.

A senior U.S. Pacific Forces official told Japan’s Defense Agency on Tuesday that the U.S. government will announce its basic plan on the realignment soon, the officials said.

The U.S. government has apparently taken into consideration the opposition of some local Japanese governments to the proposals and the absence of a basic stance by Tokyo on the realignment issue, analysts said.

But a Defense Agency official said the withdrawal represents only a postponement of conclusions on the realignment.

At a bilateral meeting in San Francisco in mid-July, the U.S. proposed moving some of its Marine troops in Okinawa Prefecture to Camp Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture and Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.

It also presented a plan to relocate the night-landing practices of aircraft aboard the USS Kitty Hawk carrier from Atsugi Base in Kanagawa Prefecture to Iwakuni Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The U.S. government has withdrawn these plans, which have come under fire from local governments, the officials said.

However, it still plans to integrate the 13th Air Force Command in Guam into the Yokota Air Force Base in suburban Tokyo and relocate a U.S. Army command from Washington State to Camp Zama. These plans do not involve any large-scale movement of troops or weapons, they said.

Reduce Japan’s burden

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi urged U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Thomas Fargo on Tuesday to reduce Japan’s burden in hosting U.S. forces through an ongoing review of the disposition of the U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific region, Japanese officials said.

Kawaguchi was quoted as telling Fargo that it is “important” to reduce the burden on Japanese municipalities, including those in Okinawa Prefecture, that host U.S. bases and military facilities, the officials said.

She also called on Fargo to maintain the deterrence provided by U.S. forces in Japan through the envisaged global military realignment.

Fargo was quoted as telling Kawaguchi that the realignment is aimed at enabling the United States to more appropriately deal with the new security environment in the region.

Fargo told Kawaguchi that Japan’s support for U.S. forces “is very important” for peace and stability in the region and the rest of the world.

Kawaguchi and Fargo met after senior government officials from Japan and the U.S. held talks on the planned military realignment earlier this month in Washington.

Sit-in stalls base work

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Protesters on Tuesday marked the 100th day of their sit-in to oppose a planned offshore airport for use by the U.S. Marine Corps, blocking the seabed drilling site off Nago, northern Okinawa.

The drilling, a project overseen by the Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau, has yet to begin due to the protest.

The proposed airport is intended to serve as a new base for the U.S. Marines, which would relocate from Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, under a 1996 Japanese-U.S. agreement.

Since the sit-in began, some 80 people per day have taken part, setting up tents in a vacant lot near the fishing port and blocking the one road that leads to the site when bureau officials come.

Meanwhile, plans are under way to hold a massive rally in Naha in mid-September.

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