Panetta Discusses Okinawa Issues During Japan Visit

TOKYO, Oct. 25, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Japan­ese lead­ers dis­cussed the relo­ca­tion of U.S. forces on Oki­nawa and oth­er secu­ri­ty issues dur­ing a series of meet­ings here today.

Panet­ta met sep­a­rate­ly with Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Yoshi­hiko Noda, For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Koichi­ro Gem­ba and Defense Min­is­ter Yasuo Ichikawa. In a joint news con­fer­ence, Panet­ta and Ichikawa told reporters both are com­mit­ted to the realign­ment roadmap and strength­en­ing the U.S‑Japan mil­i­tary alliance.

The sec­re­tary said all three Japan­ese offi­cials con­firmed their gov­ern­ment is work­ing to com­plete the envi­ron­men­tal impact assess­ment required to move ahead with the plan that will sig­nif­i­cant­ly adjust U.S. forces on Oki­nawa. The 2006 roadmap signed by Japan and the Unit­ed States would relo­cate Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Futen­ma, now in the cen­ter of Okinawa’s Ginowan City, to a more remote area of the island. The plan also would move about 8,000 Marines now based on Oki­nawa to Guam.

“This is a crit­i­cal ini­tia­tive in our effort to main­tain a strong, for­ward-deployed pres­ence in the Pacif­ic region,” Panet­ta said. “It’s also impor­tant to the realign­ment of our forces in Japan, and … to reduc­ing the impact of our bases in Oki­nawa.

“For all of those rea­sons,” he con­tin­ued, “we are both very com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ples of the realign­ment roadmap, includ­ing the estab­lish­ment of an oper­a­tional Marine pres­ence on Guam.”

Panet­ta said U.S. and Japan­ese lead­ers also want to strength­en bilat­er­al region­al secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion with South Korea and Aus­tralia “to more effec­tive­ly address the many shared chal­lenges that we face.”

Chi­na also was part of the dis­cus­sions, Panet­ta not­ed. “Togeth­er,” he said, “we will also work to encour­age China’s emer­gence as a respon­si­ble and pos­i­tive part­ner in build­ing region­al sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty, coop­er­at­ing on glob­al issues and uphold­ing inter­na­tion­al norms and rules of behav­ior.”

Ichikawa, speak­ing through an inter­preter, said U.S. and Japan­ese lead­ers had reaf­firmed the impor­tance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and agreed to expand mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion through addi­tion­al exer­cis­es and oth­er joint oper­a­tions. The Japan­ese defense min­is­ter said his meet­ing with Panet­ta also includ­ed dis­cus­sions on cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, space and bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense.

Panet­ta is mid­way through a week­long Asia trip that began in Bali, Indone­sia. The sec­re­tary has more events sched­uled in Japan before trav­el­ing to South Korea.

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