Will review unravel ’06 U.S.-Japan troop relocation pact?
Stars and Stripes November 27, 2009
RELATED MATERIAL:Futenma Q&A
YOMITAN, Okinawa — Ever since the United States and Japan signed a pact in 2006 to realign U.S. forces in Japan, the plan has been to close Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in urban Okinawa, and relocate its air operations to rural Camp Schwab, where a new airfield would be built to accommodate the move.
Now, however, with a new Japanese government in place that promised Okinawans it would review the U.S. military footprint on Okinawa, Japanese officials want to revisit a formerly discarded plan to move the Marine operation to Kadena Air Base. Or move the base operations outside Okinawa altogether.
At stake is the possible unraveling of the overall pact, painstakingly negotiated over 15 years with the former, more military friendly Japanese government. A key element of the pact was the relocation of more than 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam — but only after Futenma is relocated.
A working group of U.S. and Japanese officials began meetings this month to reconsider all options.
According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman after the first meeting, the U.S. side took the position that the existing plan is the only feasible one. Further, any delay in going forward with the Camp Schwab plan could erode U.S. congressional support for the whole realignment plan, which also includes changes for U.S. troops on the Japanese mainland, the spokesman said.
Japanese officials, however, demanded a full examination of the process in which the Camp Schwab plan was selected. Prior to the meeting, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said he was still looking into why the Marines can’t move to Kadena Air Base. "As for the argument that the Marine Corps and Air Force cannot share the same base," Okada said, "I am not yet fully able to understand it."
In the end, the working group agreed only to set a year-end deadline for some kind of resolution to the fractious dispute.
Realignment in JapanHere’s what the U.S. and Japan "Roadmap to Realignment" agreement signed in 2006 called for:
Relocating air operations from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a new facility at Camp Schwab.Relocating the headquarters of the III Marine Expeditionary Force to Guam and realigning remaining Marine units on Okinawa into a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The move would include the transfer of 8,000 Marines and their dependents to Guam.Japan contributing to the cost of the move of the Marines to Guam. U.S. officials have pegged the cost at $10.6 billion and asked Japan to cover 75 percent.Marine Corps units remaining on Okinawa would be consolidated into a smaller total land area, enabling the "return of significant land in the densely populated areas south of Kadena Air Base." The returned base properties are to include the U.S. Army’s Naha Military Port, Camp Kinser, MCAS Futenma and parts of Camp Foster.Providing facilities at mainland Japan Air and Maritime Self-Defense Force bases for Marine KC-130 refueling aircraft.A U.S. Navy carrier air wing would be transferred from Naval Air Facility Atsugi to MCAS Iwakuni.Moving elements of the U.S. Army’s I Corps from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Camp Zama, adding about 300 personnel.Transferring Japan’s Air Defense Command to Yokota Air Base, west of Tokyo.Deploying X-band radar to Japan as part of a joint anti-ballistic missile defense program.Relocating some fighter jet training from U.S. air bases to Japan Air Self-Defense Force bases to lessen the impact of training activities on host communities, particularly Kadena Air Base.