U.S., Japanese Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to Force Realignment
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 1, 2007 U.S. and Japanese defense and diplomatic leaders today reaffirmed their commitment to realigning U.S. forces in Japan.
Speaking to reporters here after a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said that the plan, which was finalized in the 2006 “two-plus-two” meeting, as it’s called, is on track.
“Last year, we finalized a realignment roadmap to complete the most comprehensive set of adjustments to the American military posture in the region in more than a generation,” Gates said. “Our Japanese partners assured us this week that they remain committed to the May 2006 realignment roadmap, as well as the broader alliance transformation agenda, as are we.”
The realignment plan, signed last year by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Fukushiro Nukaga, who was Japan's minister of state for defense, includes moving 8,000 U.S. Marines from the Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam, moving two U.S. air bases in Japan from urban to rural areas, and realigning the Japan Self-Defense Forces to complement the U.S. realignments.
Through a translator, Kyuma said that during today’s meeting, the four leaders agreed that the realignment “will be implemented steadfastly.” The leaders also agreed to enhance both nations’ missile defense capabilities and strengthen information sharing, he said.
“We reaffirmed the importance of both countries working together toward alliance transformation, for not only the security of Japan, but also for peace and stability of the region as a whole,” Kyuma said. “Building on this momentum, we are determined to step up our efforts to advance forces realignment and other related issues.”
North Korea’s 2006 missile and nuclear tests were a reminder of the potential threats Japan and the U.S. face and underscored today’s meeting, Gates said. “In this context, our cooperation validated the previous investments we have made and the approaches we have taken to modernize and strengthen our alliance, while reminding us of the work that remains to be done,” he said.
The four leaders also discussed the importance of strengthening ties to other countries, such as Australia, and achieving broader cooperation between Japan and NATO, Gates said. Aso noted that today’s meeting also provided an opportunity for the U.S. leaders to reaffirm their commitment to defending Japan and deterring possible threats.
Rice said that this is the fourth such meeting she has attended, noting that they are useful “because they reflect the deep significance that the United States attaches to this important alliance, one that plays a vital role in the security and prosperity of Northeast Asia and, increasingly, in global security.”
The two countries have made significant progress in fielding ballistic missile defense, Rice said, and the U.S. is committed to continued cooperation in the area of deterrence. “As I said in Tokyo last October, the United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range of deterrence and security commitments to Japan,” she said.