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Japan Self-Defense Force Command to Move

Posted May. 31, 2004 22:18,   


Japan’s Mainichi Daily News reported on May 31 that the U.S. and Japanese governments are examining their options in moving the Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF)’s Aviation Forces Command to Yokota, near Tokyo, where the U.S. Air Force Command in Japan is stationed.

The plan is seen as a strategic arrangement to establish swift operational readiness over the Asia-Pacific region, including the Korean peninsula, by strengthening the strategic aviation capabilities of the U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ) through the combined operation of the U.S. and Japanese Air Force.

Also, Japan and the United States have reportedly decided to have the 1st U.S. Army Command in the state of Washington be moved to Jama in Kanagawa-ken.

SDF Aviation Command is the highest command in the SDF, and it controls all combat units in the Air Self-Defense Force. SDF Aviation Command will assume control over units involved in the jointly developed Missile Defense (MD) system when it is implemented.

When the forces are combined, a close connection will be formed between the U.S. Air Force and Japan’s aviation force in terms of ordinary military operations as well as the MD systems both in Japan and the United States.

When the 1st US Army Command is moved to Japan, the United States plans to have Japan as “the principal stronghold in Asia” to extend the area under the USFJ jurisdiction to include regions beyond East Asia such as the Middle East where terror attacks frequently occur.

The Mainichi Daily News reported that a high official of the U.S. Administration said that “the gravity of USFJ will become heavier while the United States Forces in Korea (USFK) forces will be gradually reduced,” and that “the realignment project of the U.S. forces has concluded abstract analysis and is now moving on to the second phase of the operation to consider detailed propositions.”

The Mainichi Daily quoted a remark from an U.S. official saying, “The 3,600 soldiers of the USFK 2nd Division that are being transferred to Iraq will not return to Korea after concluding their mission,” and added that the realignment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region has set in motion with the reduction of USFK troops.

The United States and Japan will confirm reform plans for USFJ after the summer of 2004 in step with the situation in Iraq.

However, the issue is expected to become controversial as this attempt to combine the U.S. and Japanese forces is in contradiction with the basic principle of the U.S.-Japan Security Pact that limits USFJ’s scope of action to Japan and the Far East.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com