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Defense Chiefs: Futenma will move within Okinawa

Date Posted: 2010-10-14

Japan’s Defense Minister and the U.S. Secretary of Defense have made it clear; the two countries are committed to their bilateral security pact, which includes insuring stability in areas of the East China Sea that include the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Toshimi Kitazawa and Robert Gates say they’ll continue to press strengthening collaboration with countries in the Asia-Pacific region over the Senkaku’s situation. Two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats were rammed by a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed waters in early September before the trawler stopped. China and Japan both claim the islands as theirs; Taiwan also has made a claim. Since the incident, relations between Japan and China have turned chilly.

Kitazawa thanked Gates for U.S. support on the Senkaku Island dispute, referring to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks late last month that the disputed islands are subject to Article 5 of the bilateral security treaty, which permits Washington to retaliate against a strike on Japanese territory. Gates, referring to China’s growing military presence in waters surrounding Japan and across the Pacific, confirmed the need to strengthen collaboration. He was apparently referring to Vietnam and other countries increasingly concerned about China in territorial disputes concerning the Spratly Islands and the Parcel Islands in the South China Sea.

Closer to home, Kitazawa and Gates reaffirmed plans to transfer the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station within Okinawa, as agreed to in 2006, and confirmed again in May 2010. “It’s important to win the understanding of Okinawan people and reduce the burdens on them to realize the relocation,” Kitazawa told Gates. Gates agreed, and stressed the need for moving forward with the relocation and the transfer of 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam in the coming four years.

Kitazawa and Gates had met in Hanoi where defense ministers were meeting as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference.

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