WASHINGTON – U.S. President George W. Bush indicated Monday that the United States accepts a deal struck last week between the Japanese government and local authorities for relocating an air base in Okinawa.
“I’ve worked very closely (with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi) on a variety of matters, starting with making sure our force posture is such that the Japanese are comfortable with. I don’t know if you saw the recent announcements about Okinawa, for example,” Bush said at a forum hosted by the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Bush did not explicitly mention the deal, which changes a construction plan the two nations agreed to last October for implementing the 10-year-old accord to relocate Futenma air base within Okinawa Prefecture.
But Bush said, “You’re beginning to see a defense relationship and alliance that stays intact but is more attuned to the future.”
While some opposition still remains in Okinawa, the U.S. acceptance is likely to help accelerate talks between the two nations on crafting an implementation plan for the broad agreement reached in October to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan.
Senior working-level talks on the realignment issue are scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Tokyo. The Futenma plan had faced strong opposition from the city of Nago and other affected local authorities, which pressed for moving the planned airfield offshore so that its flight path would not pass over residential areas.
Money for Guam shift
The government has decided to bear some of the cost of moving U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam through a combination of public funds and unspecified loans to the United States, government sources said Tuesday.
The amount will be decided after the government examines the results of working-level talks Thursday and Friday in Tokyo between the countries’ defense and foreign affairs officials, the sources said.
Japan has offered to pay as much as $3 billion of the $10 billion the U.S. estimates will be needed to move 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, through loans to be paid back by the U.S. The U.S. asked Japan to pay $7.5 billion.
The issue is the stickiest point in the bilateral effort to finalize the plans for realigning the U.S. military presence in Japan.