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Saturday, October 29, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US and Japan to hold troops talks

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US and Japan to hold troops talks US and Japan to hold troops talks
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are due to meet their Japanese counterparts in Washington.

Under discussion will be plans to reorganise the 50,000 US troops currently stationed in Japan.

About three-quarters of them are stationed on the tiny southern island of Okinawa.

They are not popular with the local population there, who want to see significant reductions in troop levels.

US forces stretched

The US has had tens of thousands of troops stationed in Japan since the end of World War II.

The country is its most important Asian ally.

But the people of Okinawa have long complained about the crime, pollution and noise from US bases.

Japan has been pushing for a redeployment of some of the troops there.

At the same time, the US is looking for ways to make its military more flexible, stretched as it is by the continuing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So both sides are preparing to announce what they are calling an interim plan to redeploy some of the forces in Japan.

The country's foreign minister says several thousand US marines will be moved off the island.

Japanese media reports predict that about 4,000 will eventually be redeployed to other bases in Japan and to the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Neighbours' concern

The Bush administration wants Japan to take a more active role in maintaining regional security, and it wants US and Japanese forces to be integrated more closely.

But because of Japan's past militarism, its neighbours - in particular China and South Korea - are wary of any move it makes away from its post-war pacifist stance.

Japan's government also has problems selling such policies to its own people.

Many are wary of their prime minister's closeness to President Bush and will be unhappy if the redeployment of US troops from Okinawa means a greater military presence on their own doorstep.
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