Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer Discusses Nuclear Warship Safety with Foreign Minister Taro Aso

Record of Discussion
April 17, 2006

On April 17, 2006, Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso and Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer held discussions concerning the replacement of USS Kitty Hawk by USS George Washington, one of the U.S. Navy's nine Nimitz-Class aircraft carriers, scheduled for 2008. In this connection, both sides wish to record the following.

1. Ambassador Schieffer stated as follows:

As the U.S. Government stated in October 2005 when it announced its decision to replace USS Kitty Hawk with a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, the U.S. Government is committed to the defense of Japan and the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. Replacing the USS Kitty Hawk with the USS George Washington significantly improves the U.S. Government's ability to contribute to the defense of Japan, and to protect security interests of the U.S. and its allies in the region. A Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier provides a credible, independent forward presence and deterrence in peacetime, and a potent, sustainable force in a range of operational and war fighting situations. The U.S. Government appreciates the Government of Japan's support of the decision to forward deploy the USS George Washington to the Western Pacific, which will arrive in Yokosuka in 2008, in order to provide this improved defense capability.

As the U.S. Government stated in October 2005, while the U.S. Government was mindful of the request from the local host community to replace the USS Kitty Hawk with a conventionally powered aircraft carrier, it was determined that existing conventionally powered aircraft carriers were not viable options to fulfill the mission of the forward deployed naval force carrier beyond 2008. The U.S. Fiscal Year 2006 budget includes $14 million in preparation for USS George Washington to be forward-deployed to the Western Pacific to replace USS Kitty Hawk. Furthermore, with regard to the USS John F. Kennedy (JFK), which is the only conventionally powered U.S. aircraft carrier that currently exists except for the USS Kitty Hawk which will retire in 2008, key components of the vessel including the arresting gear, catapult and boilers, which are essential for an aircraft carrier to operate at all, are extensively deteriorated. Such deterioration compelled the U.S. Navy to suspend flight operations on the vessel. Against this backdrop, the U.S. Government, including the U.S. Navy, announced their determination to decommission the USS John F. Kennedy by 2007, and, in the Congress, a bill has been submitted to allow the USS John F. Kennedy to be retired by 2007. This all leads to the conclusion that, as senior U.S. Goverment defense officials have clearly stated to the Government of Japan, there is no possibility that the USS John F. Kennedy will be forward-deployed to replace USS Kitty Hawk.

At the same time, the U.S. Government is mindful of concerns expressed by the people of Japan, especially the local host community, over the safety of NPWs (Nuclear-Powered Warships). The U.S. Government is committed to working together with the Government of Japan to address these concerns. For this purpose, and bearing in mind the request by the Mayor of the City of Yokosuka Ryoichi Kabaya to Minister Aso on March 23, the U.S. Government has compiled a safety information paper, which will help people to better understand the outstanding performance record and the safety features of U.S. NPWs.

2. Minister Aso replied as follows:

The Government of Japan appreciates the U.S. Government's commitment to the defense of Japan and the maintenance of peace and stability of the region, as well as the U.S. Government's efforts to address the concerns of people, especially in the local host community.

The Government of Japan considers that the fact sheet on U.S. nuclear-powered warships can be very effective in order to promote the understanding of the local host community. The Government of Japan would like to ask for continued cooperation of the U.S. Government. The Government of Japan has consistently held the view that the safety of U.S. NPWs visiting Japanese ports is ensured, and believes that this fact sheet further confirms this view.

The Government of Japan supports the U.S. Government decision to replace the USS Kitty Hawk with the USS George Washington as the U.S. aircraft carrier forward-deployed to the Western Pacific. The Government of Japan sees that the presence of the U.S. Navy, including its aircraft carrier, contributes to the security of Japan, and that the security of Japan must not be compromised in any sense by replacing USS Kitty Hawk with a vessel that does not meet the standards of operational readiness and capability required of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier.