Edited from Xinhuanet, BEIJING — Senior US and Japanese officials met in Washington, to discuss the relocation of a US airbase on Okinawa. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.
The two allies agreed to not to build a new airstrip on Okinawa and transfer some 8,000 US Marines to Guam. They vowed instead to complete the projects at the earliest possible date. The relocation plan was formalized in 2006.

Edited from Xinhuanet, BEIJING — Senior US and Japanese officials met in Washington, to discuss the relocation of a US airbase on Okinawa.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

The two allies agreed to not to build a new airstrip on Okinawa and transfer some 8,000 US Marines to Guam. They vowed instead to complete the projects at the earliest possible date. The relocation plan was formalized in 2006.

A US Senate committee last week voted to block funds for the relocation, citing high costs. Controversy over the Futenma base contributed to last year’s resignation of former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama.

Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, said, “It is critical that we move forward with the relocation of Futenma and the construction of facilities in Guam for the US Marines. Doing so will reduce the impact of our presence on local residents in Okinawa while allowing us to maintain capabilities critical to the alliance in Japan.”

Toshimi Kitazawa, Japanese Defense Minister, said, “We also decided on the V-shaped configuration for the runways in connection with the Futenma relocation issue and I think this is very important progress toward the relocation of the facilities. We decided to remove the deadline of 2014 for its completion but in order to avoid the continued use of the air station, we also confirmed that we shall strive for the earliest possible relocation.”

The delay was expected by Guam’s officials, especially in light of the disasters in Japan and a conservative spending climate on Capitol Hill that’s pushed federal lawmakers to cut the defense budget.

“The 2014 target date for the buildup has never been realistic, and in fact, would have been impossible to meet,” said Sen. Rory Respicio, majority leader in the Legislature. “The highly anticipated U.S.-Japan talks have added a more sensible and realistic perspective to what is possible, given Japan’s disaster recovery and fiscal constraints on the U.S. Treasury.”

“As the U.S.-Japan alliance enters its second half century, it remains indispensible to the peace, security, and economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific Region,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“In order to avoid the continued — forever continuing –use of Futenma Air Station, we also confirmed a mutual strive for earliest possible relocation,” Japan Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa added.

The reaffirmation of the agreement came after Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday hosted Japan Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto and Kitazawa for the first Security Consultative Committee meeting since May 2007, according to the State Department.

Kitazawa on Tuesday told U.S. officials the response from residents in Okinawa has been “very harsh,” as they resent the presence of U.S. forces, the AP reported.

However, he also added that because the American military has pushed a massive humanitarian assistance campaign that was well received in Japan following the March disasters, Japan’s people understand the significance of stationing U.S. forces in Japan, including in Okinawa.

“We are cooperating more closely on a wider range of issues and challenges than ever before,” Clinton added.

 

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