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No plan to deploy US troops to Northern Territories if returned by Russia: US commander

U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

TOKYO -- The United States has no plan to deploy its forces to the Northern Territories off the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido, even if Russia returned some of the four islands to Japan, U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez announced here on Jan. 9.

    Speaking at a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, Martinez said, "Right now there is no plan for the United States to put forces on those islands." He added that he is hopeful that there will be "constructive output" when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet later this month. He said that he hopes "they will find a way to come to a resolution -- to resolve the longstanding problem."

    Moscow has cited the possibility of U.S. military deployment as one of their concerns in handing over the islands, which the Soviet Union occupied after World War II despite Tokyo's claim to the territories.

    As for the controversial plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, Martinez said he supports the Japanese government's stance. He added that the relocation project is a "bilaterally agreed solution" reached between Tokyo and Washington, and it "will move military activities from (the middle of the city of Ginowan) to the Henoko district." Martinez stated that he wants the construction to proceed as quickly as possible.

    "It's a very, very crowded area in Futenma. There's a very large military presence that does operations," the commander said. "The local citizens want that operation to move somewhere away from that area, and this movement to Henoko does that." The transfer to Henoko would also allow the U.S. to maintain security obligations to protect Japan and peace in the Pacific region, he said.

    (The Mainichi)

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