National

SHIFT SOUGHT TO PLACATE KANAGAWA

Iwakuni to take in Atsugi jets?

Tokyo plans to propose that the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based aircraft be moved from the Atsugi base in Kanagawa Prefecture to the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japanese government sources said Friday.

The goal is to ease the burden on Kanagawa Prefecture, which hosts several U.S. bases, in exchange for the already agreed upon relocation of the U.S. Army 1st Corps headquarters in Washington state to Camp Zama, which is also in Kanagawa Prefecture, according to the sources.

The local governments concerned strongly oppose Tokyo’s plan.

Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are expected to discuss the relocation plan during their Saturday meeting in Singapore to pave the way for the two countries to reach a final agreement at a later date, the sources said.

When the carrier USS Kitty Hawk calls at its forward-deployed base of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, its aircraft are kept at the nearby Atsugi Naval Air Facility. The base is jointly used by Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft.

The plan to relocate the carrier’s air wing stems from noise complaints by Atsugi-area residents against the navy’s night-landing drills.

Tokyo hopes the relocation eases these complaints. Iwakuni will have an offshore runway completed in fiscal 2008.

The U.S. Defense Department plans to integrate the army’s 1st Corps headquarters in Fort Lewis, Wash., with the U.S. Army Japan headquarters at Camp Zama. The Pentagon wants to have a multifunction headquarters there for integrated operations of the army, navy, air force and marine corps in Japan, whose primary function would be the defense of Japan.

Under the Japan-U.S. security arrangement, Japan provides the U.S. military with bases to defend Japan and maintain security in the Far East.