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Okinawa leaders learn of U.S. = JSDF joint bases

Date Posted: 2011-01-21

A new twist in the issue of U.S. bases in Japan came only two days ago as key Japanese officials told Okinawa leaders of a plan for Japan Self Defense Forces to use U.S. military bases in Japan, including those in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

At the meeting, held by a subgroup of the Okinawa Policy Council, the central government representatives said that the two countries established a working group last month for discussions on the issue.

The Japanese revelation of the study surprised participants, who learned that allowing the JSDF to use U.S. bases will make it easier for the government to implement measures requested by host communities, such as those to curb noise pollution at and prevent accidents involving the bases.

The two sides set up another working group on environmental issues involving U.S. bases in Japan. Through the group, Tokyo will request that Washington allow Japanese authorities to conduct on-site inspections of the bases swiftly in case of the discovery of soil contamination or other environmental problems.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who heads the subgroup, said the government will redouble efforts for noise reduction, crime and accident prevention, and the relocation of U.S. military training. He also said Japan will accelerate talks with the United States to realize the return by July of the U.S. military's Gimbaru training area in the town of Kin in Okinawa.

Meanwhile, representatives from Okinawa asked the state government to steadily implement steps to reduce the prefecture's burden of hosting so many U.S. bases, separately from the controversial issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station, which is now located in a densely populated area of Ginowan, Okinawa. Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima said he welcomes the government's approach, but he added that it would be difficult to assess the effects of any plans unless they are put into practice.

The subgroup's meeting was the second after the first one held in October. From the central government, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa participated in Tuesday's meeting.

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