- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005


A U.S.-Japanese agreement announced yesterday is intended to strengthen military cooperation, draw down U.S. Marines from Okinawa and give Tokyo greater responsibility for security in the Pacific.

The decisions were part of an American effort to streamline its military overseas and create a leaner, more flexible fighting force.

The accord says that 7,000 U.S. Marines will leave strategically located Okinawa for the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a move that is expected to take six years.

Last week the two governments agreed to close the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in the crowded southern part of Okinawa and move its functions to Camp Schwab in the north.

Okinawans have long complained of crime, crowding and noise associated with the American bases. There are 14,460 Marines in Japan, the largest contingent based overseas, and nearly all are in Okinawa.

Both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his Japanese counterpart, Yoshinori Ono, said the 14-page document would transform the U.S.-Japanese alliance. They were joined at a Defense Department press conference by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

“We have agreed to the findings and recommendations to strengthen our alliance and achieve strategic objectives,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “Now is the time to move forward with the transformation of our alliance.”

Mr. Ono said the alliance is getting “a fresh start, new energy and opening a new era … to improve peace and security.”

The accord said the United States and Japan will step up joint military planning, hold military exercises together and share the use of the Kadena air base and other facilities in the country.

Calling the alliance the anchor of regional stability, the agreement gives Japan more responsibility for its own defense and an enhanced security role in the region.

It says Japan will defend itself and respond to situations in areas surrounding Japan, including addressing new threats and diverse contingencies “such as ballistic missile attacks, attacks by guerrilla and special forces and invasion of remote islands.”

The United States will deploy state-of-the art radar in Japan for ballistic missile defense and closely coordinate command and control systems with the Japanese, the document says.

At the same time, the accord reaffirms the role of U.S. forces in the defense of Japan, which dates back to the end of World War II.

“The U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region is a core capability that is indispensable to regional peace and security and critical” to both the U.S. and Japan, the accord says.

The two sides had committed themselves to producing realignment schedules by March 2006.

The agreement to close the Futenma air base was followed by an announcement Thursday that Japan will allow a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be based there for the first time. The Japanese public has long been wary of a U.S. nuclear presence because of the fear of radiation leaks.

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