Yomiuri: Tentative Deal To Transfer U.S. F-15s From Okinawa To Guam

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Guam – Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper is reporting that Washington and Tokyo have reached a tentative agreement on moving some training functions of F-15 fighters stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa here to Guam.

The paper quotes unnamed Guam and Japanese authorities of its report.

Read the Yomiuri article

Kadena  is home to two F-15 squadrons of the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing.

According to the article, the transfer of some of those planes would occur very soon, within the current fiscal year.

The paper reprots that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa will finalize the agreement on January 13th during a two-day visit by Gates to Japan.

If the agreement is finalized, it will be the first reduction of U.S. forces stationed in Okinawa since they arrived.

Some Okinawa F-15s to move training to Guam

Japan and the United States have reached a basic agreement to move some training functions of F-15 fighters stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture to the U.S. territory of Guam, Japanese government sources said.

The transfer from the Kadena base, which is home to two F-15 squadrons of the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing, would occur within fiscal 2011 at the earliest, the sources said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa will finalize the agreement on Jan. 13 during a two-day visit by Gates to Japan, the sources said Sunday.

If fulfilled, it will be the first time exercises of U.S. forces stationed in Okinawa Prefecture have been moved out of this country.

The government regards the agreement as a concrete reduction of the burden borne by the prefecture in hosting U.S. bases, and hopes to use it as a beachhead to get the prefecture’s cooperation on the stalled plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station within the prefecture, the sources said.

The United States has as a rule kept two fighter squadrons–each currently comprising 24 F-15s–permanently stationed at the Kadena base, which is one of the United States’ largest strategic military locations outside the U.S. mainland.

Local residents complain of the noise pollution produced by the base’s aircraft.

The Japanese government has been trying to have the United States move the training functions of as much as one full F-15 squadron to Guam.

The sources said fuel and other costs associated with the transfer of exercises will be financed by the exercise-relocation portion of the so-called sympathy budget, funds paid by Japan to cover the costs of having U.S. forces stationed in this nation.

The special supplemental accord to the Japan-U.S. Status Of Forces Agreement that is the legal basis for the sympathy budget will expire at the end of March, so the relocation costs will be incorporated in a new agreement that will come into effect from fiscal 2011, which starts on April 1.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara are expected to confirm the basic agreement on the transfer during a five-day visit to the United States by Maehara, scheduled to begin Thursday, according to the sources.

Maehara plans to sign a draft accord with U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos shortly.

The government hopes the accord will gain Diet approval by the end of March, during the ordinary Diet session that begins this month.

(Jan. 4, 2011)