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No matter who succeeds Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. secretary of defense, it will be business as usual in the Pacific, say top military commanders.

“I certainly respect the secretary’s decision to resign and the president’s decision to accept it,” said Rear Adm. James Kelly, Commander, Naval Forces Japan. “My focus here … remains the same, enabling the 7th Fleet to do its job and ensuring that the Forward Deployed Naval Forces are always at the ready.”

Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Forces Japan at Yokota Air Base, said the game plan Rumsfeld and Japanese defense officials put in play last year to realign forces in Japan and Okinawa is unlikely to change.

“We do not expect this to affect our security relationship with Japan or any of our ongoing initiatives,” Wright said.

“The strengthening of the U.S.-Japan security alliance and progress in transformation and realignment is based on years of study and consultation between our governments as we sought the most effective course to prepare for future threats and contingencies,” he said. “Secretary Rumsfeld’s leadership helped secure the planning documents and agreements we have in place now.”

Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, did not respond to a query on whether Rumsfeld’s resignation would affect ongoing military changes in South Korea. Bell’s spokesman said the general’s schedule Thursday did not give him time to reply.

Among major changes taking place in South Korea is the drawdown of U.S. forces and consolidation of units from several bases into an expanding Camp Humphreys. Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart, who stepped down last month, recently concluded an agreement that would give South Korea full wartime control of its military forces over a timetable from 2009 to 2012.

The new defense minister nominee is Kim Jang-soo, the former South Korean Army chief of staff. It is yet to be determined when he’ll take over as defense minister. President Bush has nominated former CIA Director Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was too early for an official comment on Rumsfeld’s resignation.

However, the spokesman said officials hope the new U.S. and South Korean defense leaders “will be able to solve pending problems step by step and cooperate in making defense policies.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Hae-rym Hwang contributed to this report.


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