The U.S. Navy’s top officer will be visiting Japan and three of its U.S. bases this week.

Adm. Vern Clark’s itinerary includes Misawa Air Base on Wednesday and Yokosuka Naval Base and Atsugi Naval Air Facility on Thursday. He’ll also be in Tokyo to meet with U.S. Embassy staff and officials.

In Yokosuka, Clark is to meet with command master chiefs; at Atsugi, he is to meet with commanders and flight officers.

Clark, a four-star admiral, is the senior military officer of the Navy, reporting to the secretary of the Navy regarding naval command, use of resources and operating efficiency. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CNO also is the principal naval adviser to the president on war conduct.

Clark was scheduled to visit Japan in June but the trip was canceled after a tire on his aircraft reportedly blew out on take-off in Alaska.

Troop reduction talks

SEOUL — The lead U.S. negotiator in talks over slashing troop levels will return to Seoul next week for discussions with his South Korean counterparts, officials said Tuesday.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless — who also headed the negotiations which finalized the move of Yongsan Garrison — is to arrive in Seoul Sept. 15 after meetings in China and Japan, said a South Korean Ministry of National Defense official.

Lawless will meet with South Korean military officials to discuss a U.S. proposal to remove 12,500 troops by the end of 2005. South Korean officials have requested a delay of at least one year in the plan. In late October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart are scheduled to discuss the reduction proposal at the annual Security Consultative Meeting.

Baseball draft scandal

SEOUL — A widening investigation into alleged draft dodging by South Korean professional baseball players could involve more than 80 players who avoided compulsory military service by doctoring medical tests, officials said Tuesday.

Under long-standing laws, all South Korean men — unless suffering “major” mental or physical ailments — must serve a two-year stint in the military.

But according to Korean National Police officials, dozens of professional baseball players and other athletes illegally manipulated urine tests to exempt them from service. Each of the players added substances to their urine samples to make it appear they had kidney ailments, officials allege.

The Military Manpower Administration, which controls the conscription system, has been moving from urine tests to blood tests in determining fitness to serve, officials said.

To get legitimate military exemptions, officials said Tuesday, South Korean athletes must win either a gold medal at the Asian Games or a bronze medal or better at the Olympic Games. A small number can be selected for the Armed Forces Athletics Corps, which puts on exhibition sporting events between professional teams and military teams.

Aircraft near misses

SEOUL — Midair-collision avoidance systems have recorded an average 3.5 near misses per month since their activation four years ago, South Korean government officials said Tuesday.

According to figures released by the Construction and Transportation Ministry, the airborne collision avoidance system recorded 181 instances of aircraft coming within 500 feet of each other.

Roughly 70 percent of those instances involved a commercial aircraft and either a South Korean or U.S. military aircraft, the ministry said. The system was activated most frequently in the skies above the Osan and Kwangju commercial airports; both airports are near military airfields.

The good news, ministry officials said, is that the number of incidents has greatly decreased since the avoidance system was established. In 2002, 46 incidents were recorded; in 2003, 26; and through September 2004, just six.

9/11 commemorations set

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — U.S. bases on Okinawa will hold several events to commemorate the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

On Friday, chapels on six Marine bases will hold special “Patriot Day Services of Remembrance.” They’ll start at noon at the Foster, Futenma and Kinser chapels and 11:30 a.m. at the Courtney, Hansen and Schwab chapels.

Also Friday, the Army’s 10th Area Support Group at Torii Station will hold an 8:30 a.m. “Patriots Breakfast” at the Coral Cove Club.

Saturday the Air Force will have a ceremony at the flagpole in front of 18th Wing headquarters at 8 a.m., featuring the base fire department, security forces and paramedics.

On Camp Foster Saturday, a “Navy Mustang 911 5K Run to Remember” will be held, to begin at the Foster Field House at 6:30 a.m.

Also on Saturday, a “Price of Freedom” commemoration will be held in the Kadena High School Auditorium at 6 p.m., featuring the Kadena High School Choir and JROTC Color Guard. Speaking will be Col. H. Brent Baker, 18th Mission Support Group commander.

Oenophile challenge

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — So you think you know your wines? Think you even know enough to call yourself an oenophile, or wine lover?

Then take the taste test this week during the 8th Annual Okinapa Wine Festival at the Butler Officer’s Club in Plaza Housing.

Learn about the various wines from all over the world and how to pair them with an array of pastas, cheeses, fresh fruit and crackers. The $20 admission for adults (no children allowed) includes a commemorative Okinapa wine glass. Tickets are available in advance at all clubs on Marine bases on Okinawa.

The event is to run from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Call 645-7530 for more details.

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