WASHINGTON – Japan and the United States held working-level talks Tuesday to produce an accord on the planned realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, according to a Japanese government source.
The source did not provide details of the meeting. The Japanese and U.S. officials apparently discussed realignment proposals by both countries.
In Tokyo, three members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet held their first meeting Wednesday to formulate Japan’s stance on the issue.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Yoshinori Ono, director general of the Defense Agency, talked for about an hour at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.
Koizumi told the three last month to coordinate closely on the matter.
Japan has asked the U.S. to move some its troops in Okinawa to other parts of Japan or overseas to reduce Okinawa’s burden. The southernmost prefecture hosts the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan.
The United States has proposed transferring the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s First Corps to Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture from the state of Washington, and Japan-U.S. joint use of the Yokota Air Base in suburban Tokyo that is currently used exclusively by the U.S. Air Force.
Japan wants to reach a basic accord by the end of this year by holding a so-called two plus two meeting of foreign ministers and defense chiefs from both countries.
Mayors oppose transfer
The two cities hosting U.S. Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture told the head of the Defense Agency on Wednesday that they are opposed to a plan to transfer the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s First Corps from the state of Washington to Camp Zama, the mayors of the two cities said.
“The transfer might lead to a reinforcement of the function of (Camp Zama) and a permanent stationing, dashing hopes for the return of (the land used by) the base,” Zama Mayor Katsuji Hoshino and Sagamihara Mayor Isao Ogawa said after meeting with Yoshinori Ono, the agency’s director general.
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