Japan to foot 75% of costs to transfer U.S. drills

Kyodo News

Japan will foot 75 percent of the costs to transfer some of the drills of U.S. fighters at three U.S. air bases in Japan to six bases of the Self-Defense Forces, while the United States will cover the remaining 25 percent, Japanese officials said Thursday.

The two governments reached the agreement at a meeting of a joint bilateral commission on the U.S. military presence in Japan based on an accord last May to gradually transfer the drills to the SDF bases where the two countries will hold joint training, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Takeshi Iwaya said.

The officials said the two nations plan to carry out the first joint drills as early as March and will announce details of the exercises in late January, including where and when they will be conducted.

Japan has already earmarked about 370 million yen in the fiscal 2007 budget plan to carry out two to three drills at each of the six SDF bases.

The two nations also agreed to announce an annual plan for the drills in the preceding January, to notify local authorities as soon as the two governments decide on the details of drills and to abolish the current limit of four times a year for conducting joint drills at SDF bases.

The transfer of the drills, including those of F-15 fighter jets at the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, was part of the bilateral accord on realigning U.S. military forces in Japan finalized in May.

The two countries have agreed to transfer part of the fighter drills at Kadena as well as the U.S. bases in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, and Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, from around February to SDF bases in Misawa, Chitose in Hokkaido, Hyakuri in Ibaraki Prefecture, Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Tsuiki in Fukuoka Prefecture and Nyutabaru in Miyazaki Prefecture.

The moves are aimed at reducing the impact on the communities of Kadena, Misawa and Iwakuni.