U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has canceled a visit to Japan planned for later this month because of a stalemate in talks on where to relocate a U.S. military base in Japan.
Rumsfeld was scheduled to visit Tokyo around October 21 or 22 for talks with Japanese officials including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, part of Washington's plans to transform its military globally into a more flexible force.
But the two allies are at odds over the relocation of Futenma air base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, a key element in redeploying the nearly 50,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in the country, according to media and military experts.
Talks between senior defense officials in Washington this week ended without much progress.
In Washington, a U.S. Defense Department official said: "The secretary has no plans to visit Japan in the immediate future. It would be difficult to justify a visit to Japan when the work on our Alliance Transformation and Posture and Realignment effort is not at a suitable stage."
The official said the realignment talks were "on an accelerated timeline" and officials from both governments were committed to coming to an agreement in the near term.
"It was not decided and it has not been canceled," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told when asked about Rumsfeld's visit.
The realignment of U.S. forces in Japan has been complicated by the Japanese public's reluctance to shoulder the burden of hosting American troops due to a string of crimes, accidents and environmental problems associated with U.S. bases.
Tokyo wants Futenma to be incorporated into another U.S. base on Okinawa, while Washington wants a new offshore facility built for the Marines, Reuters reports.
Photo: the AP