U.S. air refueling aircraft to move to Iwakuni from Futenma

Japan and the United States have agreed to move all of the 15 U.S. military aerial refueling tankers at a U.S base in Okinawa to one in western Japan in mid-2014, senior officials said Wednesday.

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi and Parliamentary Defense Secretary Minoru Kihara reported to Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda about the transfer of the KC-130 tankers to the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture from the Futenma Air Station in Okinawa between next June and September.

As the government had initially said the number of tankers to be moved would be 12, Fukuda said he is "dissatisfied with the insufficient explanations by the state" on the increase to 15.

The move is apparently part of efforts to reduce the burden on the people of Okinawa from the U.S. military presence there and help pave the way for constructing a replacement facility for the Futenma base within Okinawa.

Fukuda said he cannot accept the transfer of the tankers before a clear vision of the Futenma relocation is presented, while Kishida and Kihara said the transfer is necessary for achieving the reduction of Okinawa's base-hosting burden "in a visible manner."

The foreign and defense ministers of the two countries held a "two-plus-two" security meeting in Tokyo on Oct. 3 but failed to agree on the timing of the move to include in a subsequent joint statement.