U.S., Japan discuss shake-up of fighter jets
TOKYO — U.S. and Japanese officials have discussed the possibility of withdrawing U.S. fighter jets from Japan, U.S. military officials confirmed Monday.
But officials from both countries declined to provide further details, saying the conversation was part of ongoing discussions between the two nations about a variety of issues.
"At this point, there’s not much to say on it," said U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Maj. Joseph Macri. "It’s a discussion."
Macri and David Marks, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, referred questions to the Pentagon.
"We, the U.S. government, we talk to them on a wide variety of issues," Marks said. "But not to the press."
Kyodo News Agency reported over the weekend that the U.S. government had broached the subject of removing all F-16s from Misawa Air Base in mainland Japan and some of its F-15s from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.
"Japan and the United States have engaged in talks over the structure of U.S. forces in Japan on [a] routine basis," a spokeswoman for Japan’s International Relations of Ministry of Defense told Stars and Stripes on Monday.
Still, the news report was enough to prompt senior Misawa city officials to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday, according to the Daily Tohoku newspaper.
On Monday, Misawa Mayor Kazumasa Taneichi met with officials of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the reports, according to a spokesman for Misawa City’s Military Affairs Office.
The news comes after elections ousted the party that governed Japan for five decades. Some of the new leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan have called for reviews of existing military agreements between the nations.
U.S. officials have said previous decisions — including plans to move 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam and realign bases on Okinawa — stand firm.
Moving fighter jets could alleviate tensions on Okinawa stemming from that agreement. Current agreements between the U.S. and Japan call for closing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and putting a new airstrip on Camp Schwab, a rural part of the island. Lessening air traffic on Kadena could mean less need for flights at Schwab, Kyodo reported.
The United States has about 40 F-16s at Misawa and more than 50 F-15s at Kadena, spokeswomen said Monday. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has more than 200 fighter jets, according to the ministry of defense spokeswoman.