Officials to discuss troop realignment
January 31, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone will be on Okinawa this weekend to discuss with U.S. military and Okinawa officials the planned realignment of U.S. troops in Japan.
The visit comes as the last flourishes are being added to a new agreement regarding the move of about 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam.
Both governments are working toward a final agreement next month, an official with the North American Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.
"Prior to the project starting in full-scale during the 2009 fiscal year, the pact is a commitment of Japan and the United States to each other to carry out the projects as agreed in the roadmap," he said. The so-called "Realignment Roadmap" obligates Japan to allocate $6 billion of the estimated $10.3 billion Guam project.
"The pact is to give legal power to the agreement," the MOFA spokesman said. "For Japan, which is spending a huge amount of tax money to a project outside Japan, a promise from the United States to not use the money for any project outside of the designated purpose is important."
For the United States, the pact offers Japan’s strong commitment to the Guam project, he said.
Under the realignment agreement reached in 2006, Japan said it would build a new airport on the lower half of Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Once that is complete, estimated to be in 2014, the III Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters and other key Marine units would move to new facilities on Guam. MCAS Futenma, Camp Kinser, Camp Lester and part of Camp Foster would be closed.
Earlier this week, Nakasone said he was coming to Okinawa to discuss the realignment with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and other prefectural officials and get a look at MCAS Futenma and Camp Schwab.
"By visiting Okinawa, I would like to directly hear the local opinions, including those from Gov. Nakaima, as well as see in person the U.S. military facilities and areas concerned in order to promote the reorganization and reduce the base-hosting burden on Okinawa," Nakasone said during a news conference in Tokyo.
One of the most pressing issues is a demand by some Okinawa officials to move the planned V-shaped runways for the new airport offshore. The plan now calls for the runways to be built at the foot of the Henoko Peninsula on Camp Schwab and stretching on landfill into Oura Bay.
In a foreign policy address to Japan’s Diet on Wednesday, Nakasone said Japan would "steadfastly implement the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan in order to reduce the burden on Okinawa and other [base-hosting] areas while maintaining deterrence and upholding the Japan-U.S. security alliance."