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Okinawa troop realignments may happen as Bush reelected

Date Posted: 2004-11-12

Advocates of troop shifts from Okinawa are now agreeing with opponents, at least somewhat, that the George W. Bush reelection as U.S. President may trigger actions.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is pressing the U.S. to begin taking steps to “maintain deterrence while cutting the numbers of troops “ here. Speaking to his House of Councilors, he said he supports reducing the number of bases in this island nation.

He cautioned, though, that wholesale change should not be contemplated, lest it trigger distruptions in the requirements for security and Asia Pacific deterrence.

The Okinawa Times newspaper in Naha promoted a political roundtable this week, looking for perspectives on the U.S. role in Okinawa as well as the political environment in the region.

Anti-military leaders, including outspoken Ginowan Mayor Iha Yoichi, say the Bush reelection will promote more rapid change to the status quo. Iha is still railing on the August 13 crash of an American military helicopter in his community, demanding major changes in island military operations. He wants Futenma Marine Corps Air Station closed immediately. Higa Yoshihiko, a political advisor to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, wants to see a change in mindset on the part of Japan’s government. He says he doesn’t understand why Japan won’t be more vigorous in seeking changes to the agreements on Okinawa.

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