Japan's new official on Okinawa to focus on realignment of U.S. forces
January 28, 2005
NAHA, Okinawa — The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s new top official on Okinawa will focus on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, he indicated at his first regular news conference Wednesday.
However, Yuji Miyamoto, ambassador in charge of Okinawan affairs, did not elaborate on what changes Okinawa might face under any realignment plans. U.S.-Japanese talks about realignment issues continue, he said, but “it is not at that stage yet where I can comment.”
Miyamoto also pledged to examine an Army Special Forces urban combat training complex being built on Camp Hansen, to ensure it poses no hazard to nearby residents. The training complex has drawn complaints from Okinawans who live nearby.
Okinawan local and prefectural governments generally have lobbied for reducing the U.S. military “footprint” on the island. The U.S. military has agreed, although the United States and Japan have settled on no final plan or timetable, officials including Miyamoto have said.
The ambassador said he is anxious to meet Okinawa’s top U.S. military commanders. Many of them, including Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, the commander of Marine Corps Bases Japan, have been away from the island since Miyamoto’s arrival because of the military’s tsunami disaster relief operations in South Asia.
“I look forward to sharing ideas and views with them when they return to Okinawa,” the Foreign Ministry official said during the news conference in his Naha office. “I would like to further foster communications and understanding” among the Japanese and local government and the U.S. military.
“When we view the relationship among the three parties,” he said, “it is important to give consideration to the coming realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.”
Miyamoto, a former Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, took the Okinawan post in December, replacing Sadaaki Numata, who became Japan’s ambassador to Canada.