U.S., Japan conducting bilateral talks in California
July 16, 2004
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. and Japanese officials are meeting in San Francisco this week over a range of topics tied to the Defense Department’s current Global Posture Review, said Air Force Col. Victor Warzinski, a U.S. Forces Japan spokesman.
The two-day session, which was to begin Thursday, is the latest in a series of discussions the two sides have held in the past 18 months, in which they’ve floated ideas about the potential reorganization and realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.
Warzinski said he doesn’t anticipate any decisions to surface at week’s end.
“This is a continuing consultation between allies,” he said. “There are military aspects to these talks, including force-structure reviews and security policy on both sides of the alliance.
“This is part of the normal way we manage our alliance.”
Richard Lawless, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, is leading the U.S. contingent, which includes Brig. Gen. Tim Larsen, the USFJ deputy commander, and officials from the Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command. Lt. Gen. Thomas Waskow, commander of USFJ and the 5th Air Force, was not scheduled to take part, Warzinski said.
Waskow was unavailable for comment Wednesday; Larsen was en route to San Francisco.
The Pentagon would not comment on the nature of the talks.
“The U.S. and Japan engage in consultations on a regular basis, both as part of normal alliance management and, more recently, as part of U.S. efforts to realign the U.S. global force structure and posture,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico on Wednesday.
“It would not be conducive to a frank exchange of views to comment on the content of bilateral discussions.”
Yasumasa Nagamine, the deputy director general of the Japan Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, planned to attend the meeting, Kyodo News reported last week.
The Japanese news agency also reported that the two countries may discuss shifting U.S. Marines on Okinawa to Camp Fuji in mainland Japan and relocating an Army brigade in Washington state to Camp Zama.
Warzinski declined to address those reports, saying the San Francisco gathering is just another “brainstorming” session designed to solidify the alliance’s future.
“You see lots of ideas, but do not mistake those as fact,” he said. “Many ideas are just blatantly wrong. They don’t represent any firm policies.”
Two objectives are in play at this week’s bilateral talks, Warzinski added.
“We want to strengthen and support our relationship,” he said. “Japan is a cornerstone of northeast Asian regional security and that’s something we hope to enhance.
“Secondly, both governments are committed to easing the burden of our presence on Okinawa. How we accomplish that is still a matter for discussion. No decisions have been made.”
U.S. officials hope to have proposals ready for presidential review within the next few months, Warzinski said.
— Sandra Jontz contributed to this report from the Pentagon.