A U.S. squadron of F-16 fighter jets in Japan is likely to be deployed to South Korea for training as its base is becoming the hub of military relief efforts after a massive earthquake and killer tsunami devastated Japan's northeast coast, a report said Tuesday.
The 14th Fighter Squadron at a U.S. air base in Misawa, northern Japan, is looking to be deployed somewhere else in the region for a month because its pilots have to fly to maintain their skills, the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripe reported, citing Wing Commander Col. Michael Rothstein.
Rothstein didn't specify where the U.S. squadron may be deployed or when a deployment may begin, but the newspaper said one potential locations is "likely South Korea."
An official at the U.S. Forces Korea said no decision had been made on whether the U.S. squadron would be deployed to South Korea.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.
"We're still a fighter wing," the newspaper quoted Rothstein as telling U.S. troops in Misawa.
Rothstein said a deployment of the U.S. squadron may start after he gets families members who want to leave Japan under a "voluntary departure" program out of the country.
Rothstein delivered the message and discussed other recovery operations during three town hall meetings Saturday, the report said.
The Misawa air base is about 300 kilometers north of Fukushima where a quake-stricken nuclear power plant is located.
The U.S. military in Japan and the Pacific Ocean is stepping up its relief efforts after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami left at least 21,000 people dead or missing. (Yonhap News)