Japan putting $689M toward realignment of U.S. forces
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Japanese government has decided to allocate $689 million during the next fiscal year for projects related to realigning U.S. forces in Japan.
According to an announcement late Wednesday by the Ministry of Defense, about $345 million will be set aside for moving about 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam, a move expected to be complete in 2014.
That’s a sharp increase from the $4 million allocated for the project in the 2008 budget.
Also included in the budget is $93.9 million for construction of a new Marine air facility on Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The plan to relocate the present air station, in the middle of an urban area in central Okinawa, to the rural northeast coast includes building two runways that will extend from Camp Schwab on the Henoko Peninsula into reclaimed land in Oura Bay.
That’s an increase from the $48.3 million budgeted for the new airport in 2008.
The defense budget also includes $3.86 million for the Army’s new I Corps (Forward) headquarters at Camp Zama, $55.8 million for moving carrier-based aircraft from Naval Air Station Atsugi to Marine Corps Station Iwakuni, and $8.56 million to relocate fighter training from Kadena Air Base to Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases on the mainland.
In order to aid communities hosting bases, the defense budget also includes $91.2 million in subsidies to municipalities that accept the realignment programs and $600,000 for other improvements to the local infrastructures.
“For us, relocation of Futenma is a matter of highest priority,” Yasukazu Hamada, the minister of defense, said during a news conference on Wednesday in Tokyo.
He noted that the project is moving forward, despite opposition from some political segments of the Japanese Diet.
He swept aside a reporter’s assertion that the project has a lower priority due to the opposition and the fact that the Futenma Relocation Council — made up of representatives of the national, prefectural and local governments — has not met since July.
“Although a meeting has not been held, the dialogue continues,” Hamada said.
“The realignment issues and relocation of Futenma operations are inseparable.”
Under the bilateral realignment agreement reached in 2006, the move of III Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters and other key units from Okinawa to Guam will take place by 2014, and MCAS Futenma, Camp Kinser, Camp Lester and part of Camp Foster then will be returned.
Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.