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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Both President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated Tuesday that Japan and the U.S. may be close to cementing details on realigning U.S forces in Japan.

In a question-and-answer session following a speech in Washington, Bush noted that the U.S. has been working toward reducing its presence on Okinawa, where about half of the U.S. troops in Japan are stationed.

He said he’s “worked very closely” with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi “on a variety of matters, starting with making sure our force posture is such that the Japanese are comfortable with [it].”

He didn’t go into details, but he seemed to be referring to an agreement reached between the Japanese national government and communities in northern Okinawa last week to accept a revised plan to move Marine air operations and close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

“You’re beginning to see a kind of a defense relationship, an alliance that stays intact but is more attuned to the future,” Bush said.

Meanwhile, at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Rumsfeld was asked about the revised Camp Schwab project, which would feature two runways to be built on Cape Henoko and reclaimed land in Oura Bay.

He said he was confident an agreement would soon be reached on the realignment details.

“I’ve not received any specific piece of paper, but needless to say, our folks have been in extensive discussions within Japan on this subject,” Rumsfeld said. “It has been going on now for a number of months, and I feel we’re making good progress and, at the appropriate time, officials in Japan will make any announcements they feel are appropriate.”

He said U.S officials were not involved in the local discussions.

“We’re negotiating with the government of Japan,” he said. “And they are then dealing with the local government and they will work it out.

“I have every confidence that the issues that are currently being worked on in a kind of final form will sort through very soon and in a manner that’s consistent with the interests of both countries,” he said, adding that any differences would “narrow over time.”

Senior-level discussions on the realignment plan were to resume Thursday in Tokyo.


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