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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — U.S. Navy officials and Japan’s Foreign Ministry denied a Japanese news report that an agreement has been reached to replace the USS Kitty Hawk with a nuclear-powered carrier based in Yokosuka.

The report, carried in the Jan. 15 edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, cited Japanese government sources as saying the U.S. Navy made the request and Japanese officials agreed, with a time line of 2008.

“The Yomiuri Shimbun article was not correct,” said Cmdr. David Wells, spokesman for Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan.

“The U.S. Navy routinely evaluates options regarding assignments for Pacific Fleet ships, including forward deployed Naval Forces. It would be inappropriate and speculative to discuss details until a final decision is made,” Wells said.

In a statement Wednesday, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said: “We are aware of the report but there is no fact that Japan has accepted a U.S. request to assign a nuclear-powered carrier to be based at Yokosuka.”

The Kitty Hawk, which has been assigned to Yokosuka since 1998, is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2008, Navy officials have said. Japan has expressed long-standing opposition to stationing any nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels in Japan.

Three aircraft carriers — the USS Midway, USS Independence and USS Kitty Hawk — have been assigned to Yokosuka since 1973. All had conventional engine plants.

U.S. Navy officials in Japan said no one from the paper contacted them to confirm the story.

“Where the Yomiuri got it, we don’t know,” said Jon Nylander, a CNFJ spokesman. “We checked with Washington and with Pacific Fleet and no decision has been made.”

According to the report, “the two governments have begun discussing measures to accommodate the nuclear flattop, including a maintenance facility and disaster-prevention systems in areas near … Yokosuka Naval Base.”

None of the Japanese government sources cited in the report were named.

— Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.


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