Nordkorea/USA/Japan — Gates, Kitazawa Confer on Korea, Futenma Relocation

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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)