U.S., Japan OK big changes in military alliance


WASHINGTON -- The United States and Japan announced a sweeping agreement yesterday to reshape their military alliance, including reducing the number of Marines on Okinawa and the construction of a new generation of radar equipment in Japan as part of a missile defense system.

After a morning meeting of the two nations' foreign and defense ministers, a joint agreement was released calling on Japan to accept more responsibility for its defense, and requiring the United States and Japan to further integrate planning in case of conflict. The two sides agreed to greater sharing of intelligence and to expand bilateral military training and exercises.

The document was yet another step in the evolution of Japan, which has grown from a defeated adversary to an occupied nation to an economic powerhouse under the U.S. security umbrella.

The agreement and subsequent statements gave a clear indication of Japan's desire to take an even greater role in global security missions within constitutional constraints imposed at the end of World War II.

Japan has troops in Iraq, the first time Tokyo has deployed its forces into a combat zone since World War II.

At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the agreement will "ensure a durable, more balanced and surely more capable alliance."

His counterpart, Yoshinori Ono, the director-general of the Japanese Defense Agency, said that Japan was ready to move beyond territorial defense to play a greater role in contributing to "peace and security around the world."

But Ono said Japanese military missions across Asia or around the globe would be for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, or for logistical support to counterterrorism missions conducted with the United States.

Although any use of the Japanese military beyond its territorial waters is a leap for a nation that accepted pacifist limits in its postwar constitution, Japan still would not insert combat troops into combat operations outside Japan.

Ending a decade of negotiations on the placement of U.S. troops within Japan, the agreement seeks to remove a severe irritant in relations between the two countries by reducing U.S. military personnel on Okinawa, where residents complain of noise and crime.

The number of U.S. military personnel in Japan, now about 50,000, will fall by 7,000 with the relocation of some Marine Corps units from Okinawa to Guam.

Anger among Okinawans at the U.S. military reached near-crisis levels in 1995, when a local schoolgirl was raped by U.S. servicemen.

The move also has significance for Guam, a U.S. territory that is taking on increasing strategic importance in the Pacific.

The agreement calls on Japan to deploy the U.S. X-band radar, a part of missile defense that identifies and tracks incoming warheads. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998, shocking the public there.

The relocation of U.S. forces on Japan and the reshaping of bilateral military headquarters is to be completed in six years. The cost of all movements of U.S. forces in Japan will be paid by the Japanese government; no cost estimate was released yesterday at the conclusion of talks among Rumsfeld, Ono, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaku Machimura. President Bush is to visit Japan next month.

U.S. and Japanese officials also announced an agreement to remove U.S. aircraft from Futenma Marine Air Corps Station, located in a southern part of Okinawa that is now highly urban. A large portion of the aircraft and crews will move to expanded facilities at an existing base, Camp Schwab, farther to the north.

The Pentagon news conference came one day after Japan announced it had agreed to base a Nimitz-class U.S. aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, 30 miles south of Tokyo, in 2008, the first time a nuclear-powered carrier has been allowed to use Japan as its home port.

The Japanese public is especially sensitive to basing nuclear-powered warships on its territory because it is the only country ever attacked with atomic weapons; the United States dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II.

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