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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan has agreed to pay three-fourths of the cost of relocating U.S. fighter jet training to Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases.

The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday that it would shoulder the bulk of the cost to relocate fighter jet training from Kadena Air Base, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Misawa Air Base to six JASDF bases.

It’s all part of the bilateral agreement signed in May to realign U.S. forces in Japan.

The two nations agreed to increase joint training with Japan air assets and move the drills away from the populated areas hosting the U.S. bases.

“We can’t thank the government of Japan enough,” Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Forces Japan and the Fifth Air Force, said Friday at Yokota Air Base.

“It shows the value of our partnership and the sensitivity we share toward the Japanese communities around our bases, not only from us but the Japanese government as well.”

Wright said the U.S. and Japan have shifted fighter jet training several times over the years; he cited the success of Cope North exercises.

“This is about training together, so it’s very valuable,” he added. “It also somewhat lessens or spreads the noise impact for some of our bases, like Kadena. That certainly has its own value as we strive to be good neighbors.”

The Ministry of Defense has asked the Diet for 373 million yen (about $3.13 million) in its 2007 budget for costs related to relocating the training, said Kazuo Kimura, a spokesman for the ministry’s Defense Facilities Administration Agency.

“The costs include transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies and accommodation fees,” Kimura said.

The agency also has requested 44 million yen (about $370,000) for expenses of transferring training at Kadena Air Base to an SDF base in the mainland in March, he said.

“How many joint training exercises will be conducted in a year and the size of the training exercises are yet to be determined,” Kimura said, adding that two types of exercises are being considered.

“Small-scale training will range from one to five aircraft and one to seven days,” he said. “The larger-scale training will involve six to 12 aircraft for eight to 14 days.”

The first transfer of drills will take place in March, when air exercises are to be moved from Kadena Air Base to a JASDF air base in the mainland.

The two governments are negotiating a schedule and exact locations for the exercises.

The plan calls for using JASDF bases at Misawa, Chitose in Hokkaido Prefecture, Hyakuri in Ibaraki Prefecture, Komatsu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Tsuiki in Fukuoka Prefecture and Nyutabaru in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Stars and Stripes reporter Vince Little contributed to this story.


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