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Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Monday said the U.S. and Japanese governments would take a three-stage approach toward realigning U.S. Forces Japan — and it would take time.

Machimura met in his office Monday with Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa, according to a Kanagawa Military Affairs Office spokeswoman who reported on the meeting.

According to the spokeswoman:

Machimura said in the first phase of the bilateral talks, Japan and the United States would discuss the basic concept for the realignment.In the next phase, roles of the military in Japan should be discussed, with consideration given to situations in East Asia and terrorism activities.In the final phase, detailed plans for which bases should be realigned or which units should be moved would be discussed.Machimura provided neither a specific timeframe for the talks nor when action might be taken but said the three-phase approach would require time, the spokeswoman reported.

The United States reportedly has proposed that Japan move Army First Corps headquarters from Washington state to Camp Zama in Kanagawa prefecture.

Matsuzawa, concerned about media reports on realignment plans, wrote Machimura in October asking the government to release information on the ongoing talks, the spokeswoman said.

“For Kanagawa, where 16 U.S. military facilities are located in the midst of urban cities, realignment of [the] U.S. military in Japan is a great concern of citizens,” Matsuzawa wrote the foreign minister.

The report of the headquarters transfer sparked discussions among Japanese politicians and scholars because the command operation is said to cover areas including the Middle East. Scholars argue that the so-called Far East clause of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty limits the United States to use land and its military facilities in Japan only for missions that maintain peace and stability in Far East.

“The governor asked the foreign minister to release information on the talks and if an opportunity will be given to local communities to express their opinions,” said the Kanagawa spokeswoman.

In a letter released by Kanagawa prefecture, Machimura replied that plans had not yet progressed to where the government was ready to discuss USFJ realignment with communities.

“However … as the talks go on, the government will fulfill its responsibility” to provide communities “with necessary information while working closely with them,” the letter stated.

Two host communities of Camp Zama — Zama City and Sagamihara City — have expressed their opposition to an Army First Corps move, the spokeswoman said.

“As [the] Kanagawa prefectural government, we will oppose the move, which contributes to the growth of the base functions, and consequently makes it difficult to close the base in the future,” she said.

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