Gates to meet with Japan leaders
ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Robert Gates will travel to Asia next week where he will face the newly elected Japanese government, whose members have called for a "new relationship" with the U.S. military and a quicker reduction of the 50,000-strong American force there.
Gates will meet Tuesday with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa and Minister of Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday. Gates’ first Tokyo trip is the second stop on a four-nation swing and comes roughly a month before President Barack Obama is to visit Japan.
Gates is expected to discuss the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, and the progress of moving U.S. Marines to Guam, issues that the new government has sought to re-examine. Talks between the two sides have intensified, but Kitazawa said he did not expect an agreement before Obama’s visit.
Gates’ first stop on the Pacific swing will be in Hawaii on Monday to mark the retirement of Pacific Command’s Adm. Timothy Keating and install Adm. Robert Willard, recent commander of Pacific Fleet.
After his Tokyo stop, Gates will fly to Seoul for a meeting Wednesday with South Korea’s minister of national defense.
In Bratislava, Slovakia, Gates’ meetings Thursday and Friday with his NATO counterparts "will likely focus primarily on the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. On Oct. 5, Gates said lack of allied troop support was a reason the Taliban has been able to regain its footing in Afghanistan.
In a separate announcement, the Pentagon said that Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the People’s Liberation Army and China’s second-highest-ranking uniformed officer, will visit the United States on Oct. 26 for six days for meetings, including a formal dinner with Gates.
The Pentagon has long said it was time for the Chinese military to reciprocate after Gates visited Beijing two years ago. Xu will visit several U.S. installations to build "better trust and transparency," Morrell said, including the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Fort Benning in Georgia, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, and Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.