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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Navy and the City of Yokosuka will open a telephone hot line, hold “get to know you” meetings and work together on a Honch patrol in the near future, Navy and city officials agreed Tuesday.

They want to cultivate a relationship similar to the one the Navy has with San Diego, said Cmdr. David Waterman, Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman.

Commander, Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. Jamie Kelly escorted Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya to San Diego in August to show how the city hosts nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers. The nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington is to arrive in Yokosuka in 2008.

Over the months since Japan and the United States announced plans to base the George Washington in Yokosuka, Kabaya has amended his opposition to the carrier but has continued to press for safety precautions and Navy involvement in nuclear-related disaster planning.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Kelly and Kabaya agreed to set up a hot line that will connect them directly “for emergencies,” Takehito Akimoto, chief of the city’s Military Base Division, said Wednesday.

The pair exchanged office, home and cellular phone numbers for use while the hot line is being set up, but it likely will be activated soon, Waterman said.

Monthly meetings among Kelly, Kabaya and base commander Capt. Greg Cornish also were proposed.

They agreed to meet on a set day of the month, yet to be determined, and will send representatives if one of them cannot attend, Akimoto said. The meetings would foster trust and may lead to improvements for city residents, he said.

Kelly proposed the meetings because in San Diego the base commander and mayor meet regularly, Akimoto added.

“This is one of many new ideas to help the admiral and the mayor share information,” Waterman said.

Noting that city and naval base face similar issues in San Diego and Yokosuka, he said, “When you see something that works, you try to integrate into your system.”

Kelly also told Kabaya he would join Kabaya and Cornish on a Nov. 13 patrol to look at the current situation around Yokosuka Chuo station and the Honch, the entertainment district outside the base, Akimoto said.

He said city officials broached the patrol idea previously in response to several Navy-related incidents, including the Jan. 3 robbery-murder of a Yokosuka woman by a Navy airman.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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