Friday, October 23, 2009

Top U.S. military officer warns Japan against reneging on Futemma plan

Top U.S. military officer warns Japan against reneging on Futemma plan

Oct 23 09:38 AM US/Eastern

(AP) - TOKYO, Oct. 23 (Kyodo) — Visiting U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen on Friday warned Japan against reneging on a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord concerning the relocation of a U.S. military airfield within Okinawa, saying not honoring the pact would "diminish the security support for Japan."

Navy Adm. Mullen told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that he sees the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in downtown Ginowan to the northern Okinawa city of Nago as "an absolute requirement in terms of whole realignment pieces."

"I don't believe, from the military standpoint, it is possible to provide the kind of security and defense support to Japan and to the region without it," Mullen said, referring to the current bilateral accord on moving the Futemma facility by 2014.

"Moving it (the Futemma base) somewhere else diminishes the security support for Japan and the region," he said.

Mullen's remarks are in line with the tough stance shown earlier this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates toward Japan's new government, which has been reviewing the bilateral negotiations leading to the 2006 accord in its attempt to seek more "equal" Japan- U.S. ties.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said his government will seek to move the heliport functions of the Futemma facility outside Okinawa, or even outside Japan -- a proposal that would contravene the bilateral pact that took years to reach.

Mullen also expressed hope that the Hatoyama Cabinet will reach a conclusion on whether to alter the realignment accord by the time U.S. President Barack Obama visits Japan on Nov. 12 and 13.

The top U.S. uniformed military officer met Friday with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and confirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, according to Japanese government officials.

In their meeting, Okada told Mullen that Tokyo will try to reach a conclusion on the Futemma issue as soon as possible, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Okada also told the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff that Japan has been considering new support measures for Afghanistan, such as vocational training, following the scheduled end in January of the Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around the war-torn country.

At the embassy, Mullen cast doubt on the idea of a no-first-use nuclear doctrine advocated by Okada, saying it would "dramatically reduce our flexibility."

He called for careful discussions on the doctrine as the U.S. nuclear deterrence extended to Japan has been serving well and the matter concerns the security of Japanese peop

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