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NAHA, Okinawa — Japan’s special ambassador for Okinawan affairs said Monday that the recent arrival of the U.S. Air Force’s most advanced jet fighters, the F-22A Raptors, would not be a permanent “burden” for Okinawa.

During a monthly press conference where he announced the early March dates for the first joint training of Kadena-based F-15s with Japanese jets at a Japan Air Self Defense Force base, Toshinori Shigeie, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ambassador for Okinawan affairs, said the Raptors were on Okinawa only temporarily.

Asked if the arrival of Raptors offsets moving the F-15 training and keeps the area noisy, Shigeie said that the goal of both governments remains to ease the effect of the base on Okinawans.

“Reducing the burden on the local communities is one of the major goals of the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan,” he said. “However, the F-22s are here to maintain the current deterrence system … it is a temporary deployment and we ask the local communities for understanding.”

The Raptors’s arrival for a 90- to 120-day deployment came at a time Okinawa officials had expected less training activity from Kadena-based jets.

[/BODY][/BODY]As part of a bilateral pact signed in May, flight training of Kadena-based F-15s is to be relocated on a rotating basis to six mainland Japan air force bases. The move was designed to lighten the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, where jet noise has become an issue with people living near the base.

“Five F-15 fighter jets from Kadena Air Base will join the Japan Air Self Defense Forces at Tsuiki Air Base in Fukuoka, beginning March 5 through March 8,” Shigeie said

“We expect that the joint training would improve interoperability between the United States and Japan, and at the same time reduce the burden imposed on local residents by training activities.”


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