Deadline on details of realignment plan won't be met
Stars and Stripes March 30, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japanese officials Tuesday said a Friday deadline for hashing out details of a plan to realign U.S. troops in Japan will not be met.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe announced at about 4 p.m. Tuesday that a senior-level meeting, which had been set for Thursday in Washington, would be rescheduled, said Yu Kameoka, a spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
He said Abe was contacting all involved parties Tuesday night.
Abe told reporters “schedules of representatives of both Japan and the United States” led to the change, the spokesman said.
When the realignment outline was released in October, the sides agreed details would be worked out by the end of March.
Tuesday’s announcement came a day after Abe announced that Kazuyoshi Umemoto, deputy chief of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, and Hironori Kanazawa, deputy chief of the Defense Agency’s Bureau of Defense Policy, were to meet in Washington with a team led by Richard Lawless, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Affairs.
Under the realignment plan, some 8,000 Marines would move from Okinawa to Guam and mainland Japan and most of the land used for U.S. bases south of Kadena Air Base would be returned.
But the move hinges on replacing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with an airstrip to be built on Camp Schwab and reclaimed Oura Bay land. That plan has yet to win acceptance of any of the communities affected by the move. Another reported snag is Japan’s reluctance to fund most of the cost of moving the Marines to Guam.
U.S. officials say the move will cost $10 billion, mostly to build new facilities, including housing on Guam for the Marines and some 10,000 dependents. Japan has been asked to foot 75 percent of the bill — more than twice what it offered to cover, according to Japanese news reports.
“We still have to add up various costs along the way and I doubt if we can reach that stage,” Japan Foreign Minister Taro Aso told reporters Tuesday.
A recent Kyodo News poll released Monday showed 51.3 percent of the Japanese public opposes paying 75 percent, 37 percent favor paying a reduced amount and 14.3 percent oppose funding any part of the move.
Meanwhile, the death Monday of former Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto might delay negotiations between his protégé, Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, and Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga.
Camp Schwab is in Nago. Shimabukuro and Nukaga have been engaged in intense negotiations to make the plan more acceptable to Nago residents.
Shimabukuro has said he could support building the airport along Okinawa’s rural northeast coast if it was moved farther from local villages. He and Nukaga were to resume their talks on Wednesday but Nago officials said he might remain on Okinawa for services for the former mayor.