Lawless says U.S. will not agree to realignment revisions
Stars and Stripes
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The man who worked with his Japanese counterparts to hammer out an agreement to realign U.S. troops in Japan says any change in the agreement could result in scrapping the move of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.
In an interview with Japan’s NHK television, Richard Lawless, former deputy undersecretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, said the U.S. will not agree to revise the bilateral realignment agreement signed in May 2006.
He focused on objections by Okinawa officials to the plan to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in the middle of an urban area, with an airport on Camp Schwab in rural northeast Okinawa.
The plan calls for two V-shaped runways to be built on the Henoko Peninsula and extending on landfill in Oura Bay. The Okinawans want the runways to be constructed farther offshore. Their resistance to the design has stalled the project.
"The specific location was something that was discussed for two years," Lawless told NHK Monday in Washington, D.C. "It was based on a lot of compromises that were made within the U.S. government. It was the one that was offered by the Japanese government that we accepted."
Lawless was in charge of the realignment negotiations. According to the plan, once MCAS Futenma is relocated, some 8,000 Marines and their families would move to Guam and several bases on Okinawa would be returned.
A failure to do so will stop the transfer of the Marines to Guam, Lawless said, according to the NHK report.
His comments came ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Tokyo next Monday during which she is expected to sign an agreement that will include specific guidelines for implementing the plan.
Recently, some U.S. officials have offered conflicting opinions regarding the plan. While Japanese and Pentagon officials are standing by the timetable mandating the move to Guam be accomplished in 2014, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific and a Guam senator last week said it could take a decade or more to accomplish.