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New roles now being drafted by U.S. and Japan leaders

Date Posted: 2005-05-27

Changes in how the governments of Japan and the US handle the Defense of Japan, improve international security and address new threats to the region are quietly under way.

The document will replace one that has driven the two governments since 1997. It will define new roles sharing between U.S. forces and the Japan Self Defense Forces. Officials hope to have the new plan ready for unveiling next month.

Of key interest to U.S. forces as they study altering the troop structure, as well as policy and procedures for dealing with security issues in the Asia-Pacific Region, are plans to beef up the priorities for U.S. use of Japanese civilian airports and seaports. It would also give the JSDF legal grounds to assist American forces with fueling and other logistical support during an emergency.

Relocation and realignment of U.S. bases within Japan are also in the discussion stages. Sources say the two countries have already agreed upon changes, and must now explain and sell them to the local communities that would be involved. Reductions in Japanese funding for bases are reportedly included in the talks.

Identifying the best ways of dealing with the nuclear issues caused by North Koreaís current posturing, as well as the expanding Chinese military, are also being evaluated. That Proliferation Security Initiative would also examine best ways of handling international terrorism.

The new policy paper would clearly define the SDF roles in international activities, including duties in Iraq and the Indian Ocean regions, including increased operations in disaster planning and damage control.

A meeting in Singapore next month is expected to put Japanís Defense Agency chief, Yoshinori Ono, and Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, face to face during an Asia Security Conference.

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