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Japan, U.S. defense chiefs press Futenma relocation

Date Posted: 2012-02-03

Japan Defense Minister and his U.S. counterpart Leon Panetta have agreed to keep on pressing for the new Marine Corps airbase on the shore of Oura Bay in northern Okinawa.

Naoto Tanaka and Leon Panetta say they’ll to make further efforts to implement a bilateral agreement on the U.S. Marine base, despite opposition from Okinawa’s citizens and politicians. Under the bilateral accord, the Futenma air station in Ginowan will be relocated to Nago within the prefecture, but the plan has been stalled due to local opposition.

In their 20-minute talks over the phone, Tanaka demanded that the United States comply with an agreement to start delivery of its F-35 stealth fighter to Japan in the fiscal year starting in April 2016. The Japanese government late last year chose the F-35 as a successor to its Air Self-Defense Force's aging F-4 jet. Tanaka said at a press conference after the talks that he got an impression that there will be no change in the delivery schedule.

Shortly before the meeting, Panetta unveiled plans to slow procurement of the fighter.
During the talks, Tanaka said he welcomes a new U.S. defense strategy that focuses on the Asia-Pacific region. The meeting was the first talks between the two defense chiefs since Tanaka took office on Jan. 13th.

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