U.S. plan to deploy nuclear carrier to Yokosuka may stir Japan's anti-nuclear sentiment

The research arm of the U.S. Congress has pointed out that the U.S. plan to deploy a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Yokosuka would meet "potentially substantial public opposition" due to "strong anti-nuclear sentiments in Japan," reported Akahata on February 13.

The deployment plan was unveiled in a testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on February 10 by Adm. Vern Clark, the U.S. Navy's chief of naval operations.

The comment on the deployment plan replacing the retiring U.S. aircraft carrier J.F. Kennedy was made in a Congressional Research Service report released on January 14 in advance of President Bush's fiscal 2006 defense budget calling for a permanent cut in the number of aircraft carriers to 11 from the present 12, which was released on February 7.

As its alternative, the report calls for the retirement of the conventional Kitty Hawk, not the John F. Kennedy, in 2006 to be replaced by a nuclear aircraft immediately.

In all cases, the Japanese government has hinted at accepting any U.S. proposal for deploying non-conventional carrier to Yokosuka, saying, "We will deal with the proposal, if it is made, in an appropriate manner."

The report at the same time emphasizes the strategic importance of the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Station as the only overseas homeport of U.S. aircraft carrier.

The report maintains that the forward presence of U.S. nuclear carriers will help reduce the number of U.S. aircraft carriers the U.S. requires in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and if the U.S. loses its homeport at Yokosuka, it will make it harder to maintain the forward deployment of carriers to these areas, including the Persian Gulf.

As long as Yokosuka remains the homeport for a U.S. aircraft carrier, the U.S. sooner or later will make a concrete request to Japan to accept the deployment of a nuclear carrier. The issue now is whether the Japanese public will allow Yokosuka to be further used as a U.S. homeport and stepping-stone for carrying out the U.S. preemptive attack strategy. (end)

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