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Realignment report on U.S. Forces in Japan to be delayed

Date Posted: 2012-04-26

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to delay the publication of a joint interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan that was originally due out on Wednesday, according to reports attributed to the Japanese Cabinet Secretary.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura says Japan hopes to release the report before Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visits Washington starting on Sunday. Japan's Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said the delay came "because of reasons on the U.S. side." "The report will be issued before the prime minister's U.S. visit. As far as I am concerned, there will be no changes to the content of the report."

Fujimura said that "more discussion with the U.S. side is needed before finalizing the report." A senior Japanese Defense Ministry official says the U.S. government has yet to convince key U.S. lawmakers about the report. According to a Japanese government source, the U.S. side early Wednesday morning asked for more time to gain support from the U.S. Congress after influential senators raised questions about the report.

In a letter sent to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the senators, including Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that "any announcement on this critical matter that goes beyond an agreement in principle at this time would be premature and could have the unintended consequences of creating more difficulties for our important alliance." The other leading opponents are Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. James Webb, D-Virginia.

Sources familiar with the subject say the senators are apparently dissatisfied with a U.S. agreement to keep Japanese spending unchanged at $2.8 billion for transferring U.S. Marines in Okinawa, to Guam. The report is expected to include plans to return five U.S. military facilities and sites in southern Okinawa to Japan in three stages and to conduct Japan-U.S. joint exercises in Tinian in the Marianas near Guam.

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