• Kyodo News


The government briefed a panel Tuesday about an accord between Japan and the United States on the transfer of drills involving Okinawa-based F-15 fighters to Guam as part of efforts to ease the base-hosting burden on the prefecture.

“We would like to firmly pursue the transfer of the drills, reduce the noise level and take measures to prevent accidents (related to the bases),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who is concurrently Okinawa affairs minister, said at the outset of the panel’s meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

The panel was created to look into alleviating the prefecture’s burden from the concentrated presence of U.S. bases and is under the framework of a government panel discussing broader policy on Okinawa.

Touching on the bilateral accord on relocating some F-15 drills from the U.S. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to Guam, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told a news conference after the meeting that the drills will also involve U.S. aircraft from Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture and Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

He said he briefed the panel about another bilateral accord on the early return of the U.S. Marine Corps Gimbaru training area in the Okinawa town of Kin, as well as a bilateral working group studying the shared use of facilities between the U.S. military and the Self-Defense Forces.

“I believe (Okinawa) will certainly feel that these measures bore fruit,” Kitazawa said.

After their meeting, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima told reporters, “We welcome the government’s posture but we can’t see the outcome yet until after we implement (the measures).”

The prefecture also called on the central government to take measures to remove dangers posed to residents near the bases.

While the government is taking steps to alleviate Okinawa’s base-hosting burden, it has reiterated it will stick with a May accord on relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture. Many Okinawa residents are opposed to the relocation and wants the base out of the prefecture.

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