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Japan Still Hopes to Reduce US Military Presence

Date Posted: 2000-03-17

The Government of Japan recently made clear its intention to push forward with a proposed reduction in US military presence. A spokesman at Prime Minister Keizo Obuchiís office said that they would bring the matter up when Defense Secretary William Cohen visits the country.

Japan is the one US ally that pays out more money as host to American military bases than any other in the world. Due to current economic problems in Japan, and which have lasted much longer than Tokyo had imagined, that burden has come under increasing scrutiny and - at times - bitter criticism from within Japan. The defense agreement between both countries that governs a major chunk of the annual bill (some $5 billion) expires in April 2001. Japanís Defense Agency Director General received no positive response from US authorities when he first officially brought the problem up in Washington, DC two months ago.

During his visit, Cohen will meet with Japanís Defense Agency chief Tsutomu Kawara and Foreign Minister Yohei Kono, as well as pay a courtesy call on Obuchi.

Tokyo and Washington agreed in 1996 to move the US Marine Corps Air Station from Futenma to Nago City, a less populated area to the north. But the Nago mayor has said the base can only stay for 15 years, hindering negotiations between the central and Okinawan governments. However, many pundits are predicting that Tokyo may push hard to resolve the differences before the upcoming G8 Summit in July of this year.

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