Gates, Kitazawa Confer on Korea, Futenma Relocation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 26, 2010 North Korea was at the heart of discussions that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa held at the Pentagon yesterday.
Gates thanked Kitazawa for the Japanese government’s strong response to North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan in March. An international panel of experts concluded that North Korea fired a torpedo to sink the frigate in the Yellow Sea. The attack killed 46 Republic of Korea sailors.
“Both pledged unified support for the Republic of Korea and agreed to meet with their ROK counterpart for another trilateral meeting in Singapore on the margins of the June Shangri-La Security Conference,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a written statement provided to reporters following the meeting.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said earlier this week that North Korea’s action “cannot be condoned by any means, and Japan, together with the international community, strongly condemns North Korea.” He said that Japan would continue close coordination and cooperation for regional peace and stability with the countries concerned, including the Republic of Korea and the United States.
Gates and Kitazawa covered a range of regional and global security issues, said Morrell, who noted the two senior defense officials had an “excellent discussion.”
“They obviously discussed the way forward for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Replacement Facility and the implementation of the military realignment agreement,” Morrell said. A 2006 roadmap signed by Japan and the United States would relocate the air base to a much-less settled area of Okinawa. Part of that plan would send 8,000 Marines – now based on Okinawa – to Guam.
Gates and Kitazawa also spoke about the activities of the Chinese navy, and agreed to continue to cooperate and to monitor Chinese actions in the region, according to Morrell.
Gates also thanked Kitazawa for Japan’s support for sanctions against Iran and asked for continued cooperation on this matter at the United Nations.
“Both men acknowledged that we face many challenges around the world, but that there are also tremendous opportunities to work together to confront them,” Morrell said. “To that end, they agreed to find additional ways to strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Japan Alliance during this, the 50th anniversary of the Security Treaty, including more exchanges and intensified dialog.”