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Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Kanagawa eyes base reductions in return for hosting U.S. Army
Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa has hinted he may accept a U.S. military realignment plan to transfer the Army's First Corps headquarters to Camp Zama if other U.S. military facilities in the prefecture are returned or reduced.
"As the governor, I hope I can show (the citizens) that the bases in Kanagawa Prefecture have been reduced in total," Matsuzawa said in an interview earlier this week.
The U.S. global military realignment is causing great concern to local governments where bases are located, and consent from host cities is essential to smoothly implementing the plans.
Matsuzawa claimed that he is basically opposed to any plan that would lead to a military buildup in the prefecture, including a plan to transplant the U.S. Army's First Corps headquarters to Camp Zama in northern Kanagawa.
But if the central government and the U.S. side come up with a proposal to return other U.S. military facilities in Kanagawa in exchange for the headquarters transfer, he would sound out the mayors involved to see if they would accept the plan, he said.
Matsuzawa's comments came in response to recent reports that Tokyo and Washington are considering moving the U.S. Navy's carrier-based aircraft from the Atsugi Naval Air Station in Kanagawa to the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and returning Sagami General Depot in city of Sagamihara in exchange for the headquarters transfer.
Matsuzawa, a former Diet member from the Democratic Party of Japan, acknowledged the need for local governments to bear their share of the burden of hosting the U.S. military to ensure national security.
"But I don't see why the burden should concentrate on the people of Kanagawa and Okinawa," he said.
The governor especially stressed the need to move the carrier-based aircraft away from Atsugi, which is located in what is now a densely populated area.
When the USS Kitty Hawk calls at its forward-deployed base in Yokosuka, its aircraft are kept at the nearby Atsugi Naval Air Facility, which is jointly used by the aircraft from the Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The governor's call for relocating the carrier's air wing stems from noise complaints about the navy's night-landing drills.
Recent emergency landings by U.S. choppers have also raised safety concerns.
A U.S. military helicopter based at Atsugi made an emergency landing near a crowded beach in Kanagawa last month. In February, another U.S. chopper made an emergency landing adjacent to Seijo University in Kanagawa's Isehara.
"Should an accident occur in an urban area, it may damage the security alliance between Japan and the U.S." by spurring local protests against U.S. bases in the prefecture, Matsuzawa said.
Matsuzawa strongly urged the central government to listen to the opinions of local governments when negotiating with the U.S.