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American Forces Press Service

U.S., Japanese Leaders Recommend Closer Ties, Troop Shifts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2005 Some 7,000 Marines of the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force will relocate from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam over the next six years as part of recommendations accepted by the United States and Japan today.

The recommendations come out of the "2 plus 2" meeting hosted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and including the Japanese defense minister, Yoshinori Ohno; U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and Japanese foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura.

The 2 plus 2 charts the course of the U.S.-Japanese Alliance. The recommendations address the roles, missions and capabilities the United States provides in defense of Japan and also those of Japan's Self-Defense Forces. The recommendations recognize Japan's increasing influence in the world and call for the Japanese to shoulder a greater role in global security.

"Like all alliances, this relationship must and is, in fact, evolving to remain strong and relevant," Rumsfeld said in a Pentagon news conference today. "It's our joint responsibility to manage the alliance's evolution, and we are getting that job done."

Japan's global involvement includes troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and being a member of the Six-Party Talks to counter North Korea's nuclear program. It is also a player in the ballistic-missile-defense field and is a valued ally in the fight against global terrorism. All these demonstrate "Japan's place as an important contributor to global, as well as regional, security in these still-early years of the 21st century," Rumsfeld said.

Overall recommendations from the meeting call for much closer Japanese-U.S. military ties, including close and continuous policy and operational coordination. Senior officials speaking on background said this is a major step forward.

Another step comes when Japanese forces institute joint commands in March 2006. This will allow Japanese ground-, air- and sea-defense forces to work more closely together, officials said. The Japanese step comes at a perfect time to build closer ties between Japan and the United States. Today's recommendations call for strengthened bilateral contingency planning, locating U.S. and Japanese together, enhancing information sharing, and improving interoperability.

They also call for expanded Japanese training in the United States. Currently, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force travels to Alaska for training, and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force exercises often with U.S. counterparts. The Ground Self-Defense Force does not currently exercise often with the United States, but senior officials see opportunities for that in Guam, Alaska, Hawaii and the continental United States.

The recommendations also call for more bilateral and multilateral exercises, especially to improve capabilities in air defense, counterterrorism, humanitarian-relief, peacekeeping and search-and-rescue operations, and in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Force posture realignment is also a large part of the recommendations the leaders agreed upon in the talks. Just over 50,000 U.S. servicemembers are in Japan. The 7,000 Marines moving to Guam will bring that number down somewhat, but more U.S. forces will move within Japan than transfer elsewhere. The plan calls for U.S. and Japanese headquarters and capabilities to be located together. For example, Japan's Air Defense Command headquarters will move to Yokota Air Base, home of the U.S. 5th Air Force.

The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force will establish a headquarters at the U.S. headquarters at Camp Zama, strengthening the ties between the two commands. The Japanese will also base a new X-band radar, used for ballistic missile defense, somewhere in the country and will share all data from that radar with U.S. forces.

The recommendations urge speeding up relocation of the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Base in Okinawa. Local Japanese have requested the return of the base, which hosts helicopters and C-130 cargo aircraft. The allies agreed to relocate the base to the shoreline area of Camp Schwab, elsewhere on the island of Okinawa. The Futenma decision has been hanging fire since 1996 and has been a flash point for Okinawans' displeasure with hosting U.S. forces on their island.

Also on Okinawa, the United States agreed to consolidate U.S. Marine forces on the island and return significant chunks of land on the island's densely populated southern portion to Japan.

The recommendations also call for shifting portions of the U.S. Navy's Carrier Air Wing 5 from Atsugi Air Facility to Iwakuni Air Station. Essentially, jets will operate from Iwakuni and helicopters from Atsugi.

The Japanese government will fund the greater portion of recommended relocations, officials said. Minister Ohno said through a translator that when he was the Japanese finance minister he was known as "Mr. Oh, no." But for this, he said, he wants to be known as "Mr. Oh, yes."

Both the foreign minister and defense minister accepted the idea that Japan must do more to promote security in the world. They both said the recommendations from the 2 plus 2 are a good start.

U.S. officials said the recommendations are the most far-reaching change in the alliance since the United States returned Okinawa to the Japanese in 1972.

The recommendations recognize that the relationship and the world have changed. "The specific roles that we would expect of Japan are those roles that Japan feels comfortable performing," Rumsfeld said. "Japan has the second-largest economy on the face of the Earth. The people of Japan benefit greatly from the international system. Clearly Japan has an interest in the success of the international system, and with an interest in that success ... it seems to me it's appropriate for Japan to find ways in the 21st century that they can contribute to making the system successful."

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