Wed, May 03, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Mayors pan Japan-US troop deal

OPPOSED The mayors of two towns which will be affected by Monday's agreement on rearranging US troops in Japan said that it was unacceptable

AP , TOKYO

The new US-Japan agreement to realign US forces in Japan met strong opposition yesterday in Japan with local officials denouncing the plan as unacceptable.

On Monday in Washington, US and Japanese officials approved details of a plan to realign US forces in Japan by 2014, while giving Japan's military greater responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Katsusuke Ihara, the mayor of Iwakuni City, said the city's residents wouldn't accept the plan. Ihara held a nonbinding plebiscite in March, in which voters overwhelmingly rejected the relocation of a US naval air wing to the area.

"The plan does not reflect the results of the referendum ... This is not something I or the city residents can accept," Ihara said.

Zama City Mayor Katsuji Hoshino said he also opposed the finalized proposal.

"I feel very regrettable about the final report. I cannot accept it at this point. I will keep working toward finding a solution to end allowing the base permanently together with the residents," Hoshino said.

Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa said some issues remained unaddressed, and it was unclear if deadlines set in the plan would be observed. Kanagawa is home to three large US bases, including Camp Zama which is earmarked as the operational headquarters for Japan's troops.

Top US and Japanese officials adopted the joint report on Monday, which made special mention of the burden faced by Japanese communities hosting US bases. Locals, especially on the crowded island of Okinawa, often complain of the crime, accidents, land use and noise associated with the bases.

But the officials underlined the importance placed on the US-Japan relationship calling it, "the indispensable foundation of Japan's security and of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and the linchpin of American security policy in the region."

The announcement was part of the biggest restructuring and streamlining of the US military in Japan in decades. A price tag for the plan's implementation wasn't released, but Japanese officials said their government would shoulder most of the costs.

US Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer said the agreement was important for security in Asia.

"I think the key to success in Asia begins with a strong Japan-US alliance," he told public broadcaster NHK.

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