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Japan Hails US Military Deal But Locals Unconvinced

Japan is unique in being the only global power player without its own nuclear weapons.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) May 03, 2006
The Japanese government insisted Tuesday that an agreement with the United States to realign US troops in Japan was a sound deal but several local leaders rejected the plan as unacceptable.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that the accord, which was signed late Monday in Washington after months of wrangling, "will strengthen relations in a new era between Japan and the United States".

"We want to implement it by gaining the understanding of local people," Koizumi, who is on an official visit to Africa, said in a statement from Ghana.

The agreement includes the relocation of a key US air base to another site in the southern Japanese island chain of Okinawa by 2014.

Some 8,000 US Marines will also be moved to the US Pacific island of Guam at a cost of 10.27 billion dollars, with Japan providing 6.09 billion dollars.

US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer hinted that the realignment aimed to respond to the region's shifting balance of power in light of China's military expansion and North Korea's nuclear threat.

"Asia is in the process of trying to sort itself out. Relationships are changing," Schieffer told Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

"I think that the key to success in Asia begins with a strong Japanese and American alliance."

The realignment is designed to ease the burden on some communities hosting US forces, led by Okinawa, where more than half of some 40,000 US troops in Japan are deployed.

But it has met opposition from other locals who say more US troops means more noise and more crime, while many local residents say they would prefer to see US bases closed altogether rather than relocated.

"We will never accept the agreement ... which did not include any measures to reduce painful noise or remove fears of crash," said Yoichi Iha, mayor of Ginowan where the controversial Futenma Air Base is now located.

Futenma's facilities are to be transferred to Camp Schwab in Nago, whose Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro also rejected the accord as "unacceptable".

There was also opposition from local leaders in Iwakuni, which is due to host 57 more US carrier-based planes under the realignment agreement.

An overwhelming majority of residents in the western Japanese city voted against the plan in a referendum held in March although the poll was not officially recognized by Tokyo.

"The agreement was not acceptable and did not reflect the result of our referendum," said Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara.

Local leaders in Zama, west of Tokyo, where the US Army Japan's headquarters will be upgraded to a joint task force-capable command, also expressed strong opposition.

"It was extremely regrettable. We cannot accept it," Zama Mayor Katsuji Hoshino said in a statement.

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine, however, indicated some flexibility on the issue, telling a local press conference he was grateful that some of the city's requests in the US military realignment had been accepted.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russia Showcases Latest Weaponry At Asian Arms Fair
Moscow (RIA) Apr 28, 2006
Russia will exhibit a wide range of new and modernized weapons at an international arms show in Malaysia, Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport said Monday. The DSA-2006 exhibition will ran April 24 until April 27 in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.







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