U.S. Urged Japan to Speed Up Contingency Plans for War in Korea

WikiLeaks is again proving a thorn in the side of the U.S. military, with recently leaked documents indicating that Washington asked Tokyo to conduct a status report on the availability of its civilian airports and ports in 2008 in the event of a war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday Washington called on Tokyo to wrap up the report on its 23 airports and harbors earlier than scheduled so that American forces could use them as strategic bases if aggression broke out in the region, according to a report that the U.S. Embassy in Japan submitted to the U.S. State Department on July 31, 2008. The embassy report was obtained by WikiLeaks.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning Thomas Mahnken visited Japan on July 17, 2008 and repeatedly asked high-ranking Japanese Defense Ministry officials to speed up completing the status report. But Japan dragged its feet, arguing that it was difficult to get fast results in sensitive areas such as Nagasaki, where memories of the atomic bomb dropped on it by U.S. forces during World War II still haunt the city, as well as in regions controlled by the opposition political party.

Japan said that the secret nature of the report also made it harder to gain the trust and cooperation of provincial governments without revealing the purpose of compiling the information.

In the end, Tokyo compiled status reports on two airports and ports. Washington responded by urging it to wrap up the project on the remaining sea and air bases by September of 2009. It also asked for information on the ports' fueling facilities and staff numbers, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

"The U.S. needed information on Japanese airports and ports, because it needed to mobilize passenger planes and naval vessels to transport its citizens to Japan in the event of an emergency," the Japanese daily reported.

Japan is required to support the U.S. military in the event of an emergency by providing the use of its civilian airports and ports, according to a revised defense treaty that Washington and Tokyo signed in 1997.

At the time of the U.S. request, the two sides were in the process of revising a joint operations plan known as OPLAN 5055. This is seen as coming in response to the heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula that resulted from a series of provocations by the North from 2006. These included nuclear tests and missile launches, thus raising the possibility of an armed invasion of the South.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 16, 2011 09:28 KST