Local opposition is certain even if Camp Zama expansion is not
Japanese government officials, unhappy about force-realignment recommendations for Camp Zama and Sagami General Depot in Kanagawa Prefecture, called the plan a “base build-up” that won’t ease local residents’ longstanding concerns.
But the U.S. Army I Corps’ long-rumored move from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Camp Zama may not be part of any new arrangement, say officials from both sides.
“No specific unit was identified” in a proposed realignment plan announced Saturday in Washington, U.S. Army Japan spokeswoman Maj. Martha Brooks said Monday. “I Corps was not a part of anything stated in that plan. They talked about making some necessary changes but didn’t say anything about a particular unit.”
A senior Defense Department official told Stars and Stripes on Friday, however, that an I Corps move to Camp Zama is part of the realignment plan.
Under proposals Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, secretaries of defense and state, and their Japanese counterparts announced Saturday, U.S. Army Japan’s command structure would be altered to make it deployable and adaptable to joint-task force needs. Also, a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Central Readiness Force Command headquarters would be established at Zama to operate units for mobile operations and special tasks.
Brooks said U.S. Army Japan officials still were sorting out details and would offer a statement later this week. Marine Maj. James Bell, a U.S. Forces Japan spokesman, said Monday that Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, the USFJ commander, planned to address the issues after his return Tuesday from attending the bilateral talks in Washington.
U.S. and Japanese authorities said U.S. facilities and areas at Zama would be adjusted for the new command structure.
According to a Sagamihara city news release, the JGSDF central response headquarters would have about 300 personnel used for international peacekeeping operations, disaster relief and to combat terrorism and guerrilla activity. Sagamihara Deputy Mayor Toshio Kayama said a 1,300-member JGSDF infantry regiment would be assigned to Sagami Depot to tackle major disasters.
The proposals, however, angered Sagamihara city officials who’ve long sought, with no apparent progress, that Sagami Depot be returned and that a road tunnel intersecting Zama be widened.
In a statement Sunday, Sagamihara Mayor Isao Ogawa said the proposals amount to “permanent basing” of U.S. and Japanese forces. He questioned the Japanese government’s commitment to easing the burden of the military presence on local citizens, 210,000 of whom signed a petition given to the U.S. Embassy in August protesting the rumored I Corps relocation.
“There is no good news for Sagamihara city,” Ogawa said. The JGSDF relocation to the depot would be carried out without satisfactory consultation with Sagamihara officials, he added.
“It is hard to understand this kind of high-handed approach,” he said. “The city was told that the national government will ‘take the petition with 210,000 signatures seriously,’ but is this the result of taking the matter seriously? … I understand that this was an interim report and is not a final decision. With other concerned communities, I will urge the national government to negotiate patiently with the U.S. government on equal footing.”