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US And Japan Adopt Roadmap For Military Revamp

Japan's strategic concerns focus mainly on China, Taiwan and the Korean peninsula.
by P. Parameswaran
Washington (AFP) May 02, 2006
The United States and Japan heralded a new era in military cooperation Monday by adopting a "roadmap" for restructuring the American military presence in Japan at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.

The plans, under which Japan's military will shoulder greater responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific, "will lead to a new phase in alliance cooperation and strengthened alliance capabilities" in the region, according to the defense and foreign ministers of the two allies after talks in Washington.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Defense Chief Fukushiro Nukaga commited themselves to the "timely and thorough implementation" of the so-called "US-Japan roadmap for realignment implementation".

They endorsed a package to implement an October 2005 accord for the realignment, which involved, among other things, the relocation of a key US air base and troops from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa by 2014.

Japan is the top US ally in Asia and the two sides have since 2002 been negotiating details of the realignment, which a Pentagon official had said could see Tokyo forking out an estimated 26 billion dollars in overall costs.

According to the plans, 8,000 US Marines and their 9,000 family members would be relocated from Okinawa to the US Pacific island of Guam at a cost of 10.27 billion dollars, with Japan providing 6.09 billion dollars.

"Together, we've developed a realignment plan that will make a Guam a key part of this alliance and the Pacific security architecture," Rumsfeld said, adding that the changes "will result in greater operational coordination than had existed previously".

With the relocation of the air base and transfer of personnel, both sides would develop a "detailed consolidation plan" by March 2007 for shared use of military facilities and a possible "total return" of at least five US facilities to Japanese control, the roadmap said.

In the most sweeping reorganization of US troops and bases in Japan since the US military presence began at the end of World War II, the two nations would also improve their ballistic missile defense capabilities, the report said.

"US Patriot PAC-3 (missile) capabilities would be deployed to Japan within existing facilities and areas, becoming operational at the earliest possible time," it said.

In December, the Japanese government officially approved a plan to develop the missile defence system with the United States.

Tokyo has been in a hurry to build such a system with Washington since North Korea stunned the world in 1998 by firing a missile over the Japanese mainland into the Pacific.

The agreement reached Monday marks a "new start" of the US-Japan alliance to cope with "threats beyond our imagination," Nukaga said.

He said the alliance was "vital not only for the security of Japan, but for the security and stability of Asia-Pacific region and for the global environment."

The United States and Japan have increasingly seen China as a military threat and Nukaga again called Monday for increased transparency in Beijing's military buildup.

The US military realignment package was originally due to be finalised by the end of March but was delayed by a dispute over sharing the cost of moving the 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Tokyo finally agreed to shoulder 59 percent of the 10.27 billion dollars for the relocation of the marines and their family members. Washington had initially demanded it pay 75 percent of the tab, which includes construction of housing.

The two countries recently resolved another sticking point by agreeing to move a sprawling US Marine Corps air base from an urban area in Okinawa to a beach on the island.

There are currently more than 40,000 US troops in Japan, more than half of them in the Okinawa chain where islanders have long demanded a reduction in the US presence.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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